Saturday, November 9, 2013

White Gold

Taylor White (Taylurk) was with Kaff-eine at The Bell Jar, in Collingwood, the day I met her. She had agreed to an interview and I was running late. I got there and recognised her instantly as the person responsible for the panels at JuddyRoller. It’s a strange thing to say, but she looks like her work.  And she has a presence that slaps you in the face. I offered that she looks Leo Di Caprio. She laughed and in a broad Southern accent that would make any Aussie swoon she replied “I’ve been told James Dean or Lisa Marie”. She does indeed look like the love child of Lisa Marie Presley and James Dean, with the unaffected cool of Leo.     

I was psyched to have the opportunity to meet the artist responsible for the panels that launched a thousand 'likes'. The boys they depict look like little Aussies, playing in the street in the 50's. Later we hit Instagram and I locate my first photo of the panels, taken 114 weeks ago. Taylor shows me an image of a young boy from the coal mines that had inspired them, adding "it was my first ever piece of that scale". I called her a “talented bastard” and she smiled knowingly.

Success comes to Taylor as it should.  Taylor the illustrator was a Dean’s List award winning student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  At 22 she headed for Oslo, Norway.  She was introduced to the lead art director at advertising agency TRY Reklamebrya, THE agency in Norway. He offered her a freelance story board project and “when the client was wildly impressed” she was taken on.  In 2008 she became the first in-house illustrator to be hired by any agency in Norway.  

Taylor the painter emerged in Norway, when Australia's Elwin Bradshaw encouraged her to paint. Taylor had a growing sense this was what she really wanted to be doing and so she did. One time Neighbours actor, Bradshaw had relocated to Norway and among many of his endeavors ran Pastillen Gallery in Oslo. It was there that Taylor had her first solo exhibition 'Shortly Before the End', an apt title as it coincided with a feeling that it was time to move on.

The show was Taylor's first experiment with large scale works on panel. She built the panels herself, with Elwin's help, creating 20 pieces in 3 months. She describes the pieces as an eclectic and highly experimental body of work that process as her artistic awakening. Ironically, 'Shortly Before the End' marked the beginning of her exploration as a traditional painter. 

Taylor enjoyed Norway but it “always felt like wearing someone else's shoes; comfortable enough but never quite the right fit”. When the opportunity arose to travel to Melbourne, Australia, she jumped at it.
Disquiet - Image courtesy of the artist.

The street artist Taylurk was born in Melbourne when Shaun Hossack of Juddy Roller encouraged her to put her work on the street.  With street art, she loved that she had more freedom, that the work “didn’t have to be perfect” and that she was not constricted by the expectations of others. And so came more exhibitions, group and solo. She offered that she prefers not to follow the traditional pathway of gallery representation, but rather to freely place her work on any surface that would allow for interesting creative exploration, and to gain visibility that way.

It would be convenient if I could leave you with the impression of Taylor emerging from the gallery to the street however Taylor explained "I would be as reluctant to confine my work to the streets as to the four corners of a canvas". She enjoys the exploration of urban surfaces and the possibility that "if I can master aerosol, I can paint any image, on any surface". 

Taylor intends to keep travelling but she remains passionately grounded in North Carolina. She speaks enthusiastically about her “deeply rooted heritage” and her father, grandfather and great grandfather's links to the coal industry. Unlike most people desperate to leave what she acknowledged was a “small town” suburban life, Taylor wants to stay. She raves about her hometown Raleigh, explaining that “in the past 5 years Raleigh has seen a cultural boom which makes it feel livable for the first time. There's so much potential for the city; the cultural scene is so young and ambitious, and it still retains a certain humility”. I googled and confirm that this is true.  

Taylor’s plans for Raleigh are bold. She says “I have a feeling there is a difference to be made to the creative culture there, and I may or may not be the one to make that difference”. Given the success she has had in the first 3 chapters of her career, I cannot see her being anything but the creative driver. For the past year she has been building her studio, in the corner of family land.  This is to become her landing pad. I ask if she will open a gallery space there and she says yes, maybe, one day. I joke will she run a circus on the hundreds of acres surrounding her and she says “actually, yeah, I have friends in the circus and …”. At first I think she is joking but no. 

Taylor is currently visiting Melbourne incidentally after travelling to Adelaide after unanimously winning the Stupid Krap Red Book Art Prize with her piece “Drifter”. On their website she is quoted as describing her images as the depiction of androgynous human children, conveying “an openness and a malleability that exists in us prior to adulthood”.*
Drifter - image courtesy of the artist.
 This might offer an insight into why Taylor’s work looks like her. More examples can be found on her websiteTumblrInstagramFacebookbehanceJust Another AgencyThe Loop, New Hunting Ground , Flanders Gallery in Raleigh etc etc. Seriously just google her She is an artist who is androgynous and malleable. She feels deeply connected with her heritage and the hometown of her youth. She is open to change and willing to be taken in any direction. This makes her available to the type of serendipity that leads to greatness. If this is Taylor White at 28, I cannot wait to see her future.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In An Unguarded Moment

If you follow street art in Melbourne on Fb, or follow street photography generally, you know where this post is coming from:#besttopicever #overonehundredcommentsonastatusupdate #23positionsinaonenightstand #comeonwhodoesntthinkofPrinceandquotehimintheirhead.
So there was a Fb status update that summonsed street photographers and their subjects to discuss the issue of the unguarded image of a stranger taken without their consent (and our subsequent posting in social media forums). The ensuing debate became about responsibility in a new age (i.e. where so many images are taken and distributed so widely). It also became about taking someone's photo without permission, what delineates lawful and not (actually that one may not have come up), what line there is and when is it blurry, whether you should ask permission, staged images versus capturing a moment and objectifying the subject. It touched on the ridicule of the subject and the dangerous territory of the child subject. 

Yes, there are some very insightful folk in Fb land. You might be posting about your smashed avocado and goats fetta, but we are dissecting serious issues here. 
I decided to hunt down some images I have snapped over the years. To be a bit careful treading on this topic I tried to disguise identities.  I noticed that whilst I selected some unguarded snaps of friends laughing, I could not post their images. It wasn't so much out of respect for them, but out of fear of retribution. So to add to this debate, there is something different about capturing the unguarded image of a stranger, and the unguarded image of a friend. Perhaps it is a feeling of entitlement to take the shot because of the distance between the photographer and the subject, or less attachment to the importance of privacy because the person is unknown. Maybe their is a loosening of connection to the unique human subject because the context of documenting life (crudely or respectfully) is different to the context of  capturing shared memories.
You need to know I have chosen the least confronting voyeuristic photographs I could find for this post and in doing so, I am skewing the topic in my favour, rather than towards the uglier side of the unguarded subject. And I acknowledge an uglier side of the unauthorised capture of the image of a stranger.
One person's comment rightly intimated I (and others) might be using 'Art' as an idealistic platform to romanticise an ugly behaviour. As human as I think that behaviour is, and as guilty as I am of behaving along side and within it, this is true for me. I think I do trade off the idea of 'Art' as a camouflage. 
The most important idea that came from this debate, for me, is the need to recognise the reality of the world now. Photographers are not a select few with a big heavy camera and access to a dark room. Photographers are every person with a phone.  The people capturing the unguarded moments are not photojournalists, but strangers from all walks of life. We have become a society that photographs every single thing we do and everything everyone else is doing. We can and do broadcast it all over the world seconds after the image is captured. It is exciting to think of what this means for the world, in terms of our understanding of ourselves and the collective conscience, or at least 'shared knowing'. It is frightening however to see how that creates a further chasm between those with access to technology and those without. And it is horrifying to think of what this means for the privacy of the individual. Now excuse me while I check in on foursquare, upload a photo of the trashed Melbourne Cup reveler who just staggered off the tram and tag you with me at Mario's.