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									DOWNTOWN
THE MARKETS OF SANTIAGO WERE A
NATURAL SOURCE FOR THE BOWERBIRD
AESTHETICS OF SELINA OU WRITES
ASHLEY CRAWFORD. PORTRAIT BY
VIVA PARTOS.




140                                141
W
             e all crave information. In the world before
             internet and television, that craving was often
             fulfilled via the humble newsstand. Whether it be
New York or Tokyo, street corners hosted a mass of
newspapers and magazines. The newsstand was a place
where locals would stop and gossip, or talk about the news
of the day. The newsstand vendor was a locus and a filter to
reach the wider world. While this may sound nostalgic, in
some parts of the world, such as Santiago, Chile, that is still
the case.
   With its plethora of products, the downtown markets of
Santiago were a natural source for the bowerbird aesthetics
of Selina Ou. In September 2006, Ou traveled to Latin
America and settled in Santiago for just under a month to
produce this new body of work.
   Along with the two gentlemen manning the newsstand
there is an almost heroic food vendor staring ahead in a pose
reminiscent of Che Guevara, but instead of a beret he is
adorned in a Heineken t-shirt. There is a laconic hardware
owner going through his books, a man whose dreams seem
to have long passed him by.
   Ou had headed for the downtown markets to seek out what
she describes as the “service culture”, which she considers a       “I was drawn to consumer
reference point for “understanding contemporary culture             environments because, despite
through the products supplied to the public,” as she                where you come from, you can
explained to Nicola Harvey on ArtsHub.
   “I was looking for the non-tourist side of Santiago, the shops
                                                                    relate to these spaces,”
that are part of everyday life, the chemist or the news stand.”




  SOPHIE GANNON
  Director, Sophie Gannon Gallery

  ON SELINA OU
  According to Sophie Gannon, “interest in Ou’s work is
  consistently strong, particularly as her imagery
  becomes more recognisable. Her work is still
  affordable, so people are more easily able to acquire a
  work by an acclaimed contemporary artist.” Prices for
  her work increase as demand for her work continues to
  rise. All works in the August show will be priced at
  $3000 having risen, on average, $500 since the last
  show in 2006.
     Her works are held in a number of public institutions
  in Australia including the National Gallery of Victoria,
  Monash Gallery of Art and the Australia Council
  collection.
     Sophie Gannon maintains: “Selina’s work is
  recognised by curators and collectors alike – this                Above: Selina Ou, Food Store, La Vega Central,
                                                                    Santiago, Chile, 2006-7. C type photograph, edition
  duality ensures that Selina’s practice has both critical          of 8, 100 x 100cm.
  and commercial success and places her in a very strong
                                                                    Opposite: Selina Ou, Fruit and Vegetables Stall #1,
  position in the art market.”                                      La Vega Central, Santiago, Chile, 2006-7. C type
                                              Elizabeth Sarks       photograph, edition of 8, 100x100cm.
                                                                    COURTESY: THE ARTIST AND SOPHIE GANNON GALLERY



142                                                                                                         www.ar tcollector.net.au   www.ar tcollector.net.au   143
                                    In a series of 15 photographs, Ou has set out to
                                 capture what might be dubbed the consumer
                                 landscape of Santiago. “I was drawn to consumer
                                 environments because despite where you come
                                 from, you can relate to these spaces,” she says.
                                    The almost obsessive ordering of products –
                                 magazines, tinned food, hardware items – creates
                                 an internalised domain and the shopkeepers are
                                 clearly the lords of these tiny realms.
                                    To say that Ou is a restless artist would be an
                                 understatement. Chile continues her examination of
                                 the reaches of globalisation, building on her
                                 previous bodies of work, Sakura Season in 2005, and
                                 her China series of 2003.
                                    Born in Malaysia, Ou studied photography at the
                                 Victorian College of Arts and over the past five years
                                 her work has been selected in a number of national
                                 and increasingly international group exhibitions
                                 including Ciudad during PHotoEspaña in Madrid in
                                 2005, The All Australian Show as part of II Ponte
                                 Contemporanea in Rome in 2005, Open Letter at Gallery
                                 4A and the Asialink South East Asia Touring Exhibition
                                 in 2005. During this period, Ou has also held
                                 frequent solo exhibitions. In 2003, she was awarded
                                 the City of Hobart Art Prize in photography and in       The downtown markets of Santiago
                                 2005, she was selected for the ANZ Private Bank          were a natural source for the
                                 Emerging Artist Program. Selina Ou has also
                                 undertaken series of work in Japan and China,
                                                                                          bowerbird aesthetics of Selina Ou.
                                 including during her 2005 Australia Council
                                 residency.

                                 Selina Ou’s photography will be on show at Sophie
                                 Gannon Gallery, Melbourne, from 12 August to 6
                                                                                          Above: Selina Ou, Calzado Sport Shoe Stall, Central Station, Santiago,
                                 September 2008. Her work will also feature in an         Chile, 2006-7. C type photograph, edition of 8, 100 x 100cm.
                                 exhibition of City of Hobart Art Prize winners at the    Opposite: Selina Ou, Magazine Stand, Central Station, Santiago,
                                 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery from 1 August           Chile, 2006-7. C type photograph, edition of 8, 100 x 100cm.
                                 to 14 September 2008.                               I    COURTESY: THE ARTIST AND SOPHIE GANNON GALLERY




                                    ZARA STANHOPE ON SELINA OU
                                    Deputy Director, Senior Curator, Heide Museum of Modern Art

                                    “Selina Ou has carved out a distinctive photographic            are familiar to them and gaining their trust, she reveals
                                   practice during a period when, within the art world, the         much about both her sitters and their environments.
                                   medium has been under perhaps the most scrutiny since               “Ou’s practice could be said to be important for offering
                                   its instigation. Aware of the historical and contemporary        a social portrait, and revealing the many ways we perform
                                   context for photography, she has found strategies that           and experience our lives through work and leisure. Within
                                   generate a recognisably individual practice.                     that observation are clues to the conditions that generate
                                      “The clarity of purpose and ability to practice in            life’s experiences – how we learn to function in natural
                                   whatever situation and community she finds herself in are        and retail environments for example – which tell
                                   astounding. Ou immerses herself in the local context and         important stories about the individual and the context
                                   allows us to also observe some of its inhabitants through        that creates and informs their being.”
                                   her lens. By photographing her subjects in contexts that                                                         Elizabeth Sarks



144   www.ar tcollector.net.au   www.ar tcollector.net.au                                                                                                          145

								
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