Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Kennie Ellis Show

Last Friday afternoon I was driving past the Monash Gallery of Art and decided to drop what I was doing and finally check out the photography exhibition of works from the MGA collection curated by Bill Henson. I'd been meaning to see it for ages.

Unfortunately when I stepped foot into the gallery I realised that I'd been meaning to see it for so long that I'd missed the exhibition by a week. It sucks when you miss a show you were looking forward to, but I've been really busy and I guess you just can't see everything. Anyway I had to put my disappointment to the side for a second and instead I got really excited when I saw that the show that's replaced Henson's exhibition is a retrospective type thing of the Australian photographer Rennie Ellis.

Rennie Ellis was a photo journalist who during the 1970's, 80's and 90's photographed people at their wildest living it up in Melbourne and Sydney. There's something really special about the way Rennie captured freedom and excitement, he seemed to have a genuine love for his subject matter and it's hard to look at his photos without having a big smile on your face. 

Ha, but ok this wasn't meant to be a Rennie Ellis review or anything like that, the reason I've brought it up is because I'd actually seen a lot of the work already back in 2009 at a show in the National Gallery of Victoria, back then I loved the photos so much that I made a couple of little drawings of them, and so 5 years later I figured what might be a fun thing to do would be to draw those same photos again.

And so yeah, here's a drawing I did on the 21st of January, 2009, of a photograph Rennie Ellis took in 1971 of a woman with a tattoo on her arm that says "PROPERTY OF SYDNEY HELL'S ANGELS".
And here's a drawing I did of it on Friday. 
It's cool to be able to compare the two drawings, hopefully I'll be able to see Rennie's photograph in another five years and draw it again.

In the meantime here's another drawing I did in January 2009, this time of a photo Rennie Ellis took backstage at an AC-DC concert capturing some hottie canoodling with AC-DC lead singer Bon Scott, (I bet she shook him all night long).
And here's a drawing I did on Friday of the same photo, this time focusing a bit more on the guy who's watching the pair from the background.
After having another look at the photo of Bon Scott on Friday I dug up my old T.N.T cd and have been listening to it all week since, I'd forgotten how much AC-DC are dynamite.

While I'm talking about music, the other thing I really like about the Rennie Ellis show is that it's called The Rennie Ellis Show, (who knows, maybe one day I'll get to have The Kenny Pittock Show). The first thing the title makes me think of is Eminem's The Eminem Show, which is an album I actually have on record.

It's kind of funny that I've got AC-DC's album from 1975 on a burnt CD and Eminem's album from 2002 on vinyl.
Another thing that's kind of funny is that even though I missed the previous exhibition that Bill Henson had curated, I'm 95% sure Bill Henson himself was in the gallery. 
The only reason I'm slightly doubtful whether it was actually Bill Henson is because he was talking on the phone in a foreign language. Is Bill Henson bilingual? My guess is he probably is, he's a really smart guy, I wouldn't be surprised if he's fluent in a dozen languages.

On the subject of learning other languages I'm currently trying to teach myself Italian. So far all that's really sunk in is that 'louie' means 'boy'. Well, that's what the app I've got tells me, but then I googled it and the internet says that boy is 'ragazzo', so I don't know who to believe. I guess I should've asked Bill Henson, he would've known.

But so anyway after seeing The Rennie Ellis Show on Friday I decided to go back to the MGA on Saturday for another look at the show and to hear the opening speeches. I think the last time I made it to a talk at the MGA was in October, 2011, when I saw Bill Henson speaking, (I'm 100% sure it was Bill Henson that time), and I made this drawing, 
So yeah, after seeing the show a day before it officially opened I was back for the opening speeches. I sat down early so I wouldn't miss out on a seat and as I waited for the speeches to start I made a drawing of the man sitting next to me's foot.
After I'd drawn the mans foot I gave him the drawing, here's a video of that.
The man was really great, he was friendly and funny and after the speeches we ended up talking for ages about a trip he took to Germany and the art he saw over there. 

The speeches were great too, one quote I wrote down was "Rennie was a great photographer, but more than that he was a warm human, and his humanity is clear in the work. And though this is not necessarily rare, it is a wonderful thing".

Another thing I liked is that apparently Rennie used to say "My photographs legitimise my voyeristic tendencies", which I thought was pretty funny and I guess is something I could try and say about my own stuff. 

Rennie Ellis died in 2003 of a cerebral hemorrhage, or as it was said that he referred to it, he had "a tractor in the field", and so more than just a retrospective the speeches and the massive crowd made this exhibition feel like the celebration of a great life.

And I guess the highlight of the speeches was Michael Caton talking about how he first became aware of Rennie Ellis when he hooked up with one of Rennie's ex-girlfriends and had to hear about how "Rennie did this and Rennie did that". Caton paused and then very endearingly finished the anecdote by saying "Well fuck you Rennie Ellis". 

I think that's the only swear word I've written on this blog, I nearly didn't write it but I felt like it was important for the story. But so yeah, pardon my French. Ha, maybe I am bilingual after all. 

As I was leaving the gallery I ran into Michael Caton out the front, and so ok, to wrap this up, here's a photo of Michael Caton, Australia's most beloved actor; standing next to me, Australia's biggest dork.
And so yeah, thanks heaps for reading this, and go check out The Rennie Ellis Show at the Monash Gallery of Art. 

Also, while you're at the MGA be sure to check out their bookstore and pick up a copy of Sturgeon, which has in it a big photo/writing artwork type thing that I was lucky enough to be commissioned to do. (It starts on page 80.)
Oh and also, most important of all, remember to go see my stuff in NEW14 at ACCA! NEW14's on until the 18th of May, which sounds like you've got plenty of time but be careful you don't do what I did with the Henson show and walk into ACCA a week too late!

If you do miss it though and walk into ACCA a week late be sure to keep an eye out for me, I'll no doubt be in there too walking around and speaking on the phone in fluent Italian. Or if I'm not fluent yet I'm sure by then I'll at least be able to tell you if boy is louie or ragazzo. Or at the very least, if you ask me nicely, I might draw your foot.

1 comment:

  1. Sei stato un ragazzo buzy - ditch the Italian Lesson App