School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    Centre Five sculptors: the formation of an alternative professional avant-garde
    Eckett, Jane ( 2016)
    This thesis examines the previously unknown origins of Centre Five, a group of mainly émigré sculptors influential in Melbourne in the 1950s and 1960s, who are widely regarded as having played a key role in the advancement of modernist sculpture in Australia. In part a group biography of the seven sculptors, the thesis examines their little-known backgrounds in order to establish the roots of the group’s collective philosophy, particularly with regards to the integration of sculpture and architecture. Five of the sculptors – Vincas Jomantas (1922-2001), Julius Kane (1921-62), Inge King (1915-2016), Clifford Last (1918-91) and Teisutis Zikaras (1922-91) – were European born, trained and nurtured amidst various cosmopolitan modernities that emerged in Britain, Germany, Hungary and Lithuania between and during the two world wars. The two Australian-born members – Lenton Parr (1924-2003) and Norma Redpath (1928-2013) – derived their outlook from European models and would later live and work in Britain and Italy respectively. As such, this thesis is less a study of Australian sculpture than it is a study of European sculpture directly before, during and after World War Two. In 1953 Kane, King, Last and Redpath began exhibiting together in Melbourne as the Group of Four; later, in 1961, they joined with the other three sculptors to form Centre Five. However, I focus on the years 1935 to 1952, ending just before the group began to coalesce – at which point they effectively enter Australian art history. The thesis departs from most other studies of wartime and post-war modernist art in placing less emphasis on traumatic rupture than on strategies of survival and the adaptation of earlier modernist agendas. Specifically I argue that the émigré sculptors practiced a form of ‘alternative professionalism’, meaning they deployed the strategies of professionalism for anti-academic and essentially avant-garde purposes. They had a concise program of goals, made concerted overtures to architects, and regularly proselytized to the public and the press on the subject of abstract modern sculpture – particularly as it related to the urban and built environment – and, as such, constituted an identifiably cohesive local avant-garde. Tracing inter-tangled transnational histories of exchange between diverse modernities – peripheral and central – the thesis complicates existing Australian, British, German and Lithuanian nationalist art histories and contributes to an ongoing alternative modernities project. It also demonstrates the inadequacies of the old model of Australian art lagging provincially behind that of Europe and North America. Influences do not simply diffuse radially from centre to periphery, but rather occur simultaneously in multiple locales, in different guises. Similarly, the so-called ‘call to order’ of the 1930s is shown to reoccur after WWII, particularly in French-occupied Germany, reflecting a recurrent cyclical pattern of modernist art – looking backwards and looking forwards – rather than the persistent teleological model of canon formation.
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    Australian animal painting and the human-animal bond in art
    Kovacic, Katherine Vanessa ( 2014)
    Animal painting is a critically important part of Australian art history, yet it has been afforded scant–if any–scholarly attention. Additionally, as the genre reached an apotheosis in the nineteenth century, animal painting represents a window into Australian society during a phase of rapid development. Domestic animals were a key part of society during this period, as cherished companions and as a driving force behind the expansion of Australian agricultural interests. This thesis begins the task of establishing animal painting within the annals of Australia’s art history. Commencing with an overview of animal painting in different cultures since the birth of art, the thesis then moves to consider the human-animal bond and its impact on the visual representation of animals. The human connection with other species has been represented artistically from Palaeolithic times to the present, yet the portrayal of animals in art is often dismissed as symbolic. By examining the science of the human-animal bond, the thesis explores why humans like to create and look at images of animals. It postulates that a connection with animals affects the way people view paintings when animals are part of the picture. In the same way, artists who specialise in animal painting not only exhibit a strong affinity with animals, they are able to capture the sentience and intelligence of their non-human subjects with greater veracity. Turning to Australian art of the nineteenth century, discussion focusses on the role of domestic animals in colonial society and on the artistic legacy of animal painters. Several artists are singled out for closer scrutiny, in particular, Harold Septimus Power. Septimus Power can be considered an archetypal animal painter: he evinced a strong connection with animals, was highly successful throughout his career and is largely overlooked and underrated since his demise. The intensity of the bond shared between mounted soldiers and their horses was played out in paintings portraying the Australian Light Horse in action during World War I. That Australian animal painters were on the spot to record these events meant their art contributed significantly to the horse-soldier bond forever being entwined with the legend of Anzac. By confirming the importance of animal painting in Australian art, this thesis suggests new avenues of research, both in regard to art and to the human-animal bond. Further exploration of the way animals have been represented in the art of different cultures, and into the significance of the animal gaze in art are just two of the ways in which the study of animal painting can facilitate greater understanding of the role animals play in human life.