Pool side with Slim Aarons

SLIM A3

I have a crush on Slim Aarons.

The man who gained access into exclusive precincts of the beau monde, essentially achieving the status as ‘court side photographer’. Where the glittering class and all their grandeur are captured and framed within each 35mm print, from starlets to princesses, moguls and mavens, aristocrats and arrivistes. He joined them on yearly Verbier ski getaways, and too quickly juxtaposed to their bougainvillea-festooned villas, speckled across the Riviera, the smells of the summers long ago still seeping through each photo.

 It wasn’t until three days until an artwork was due, that I found myself staring at a blank drawing pad, my Tumblr archive open for inspiration, and pencil in hand. This artwork I thought would be snatched out of thin air, was proving more difficult, and as a fully-trained perfectionist I wasn’t settling with the bare minimum.

When it comes to originality, my younger sister knows what’s up- and once realising my creative juices were not flowing for this particular project I went to her for back up. Known as ‘Nasteh’ in the cyber world, her loyal followers watch as she chooses to post on a not-so-regular basis, claiming (what I think) is the most humble curation of Purienne-inspired posts to grace social media. While our creative style is often at odds with one another, she never fails to give me the tips and tricks to spark my own ideas- this time it was Sammy Slabbinck. An artist working with mixed media collages, superimposing mundane objects or landscapes, each in careful placement to suggest something almost surreal.

With her unique style in mind, I created my own by appropriating the infamous Slim Aarons photographs epitomising the LA pool-side culture of the 60s. The scale of architecture and the human energy within his photos have always informed Aarons’s works, noted for his socialites, jet-setters and celebrity subjects. He claimed his career was made by “photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places” but somehow ridding each frame of the naff and over-indulgent, only revealing the subtle beauty of fame and fortune. Clipping photos from his book Slim Aarons: A Place in the Sun (2005), a new meaning was given to each photo as I deconstructed, rearranged and added in my own adaptations. While replacing the perfect pool water with overflowing popcorn didn’t do the photograph justice, there is something grotesquely beautiful about a fast-food symbol finding its way into the poolside serenity.

The ‘Rockpools’ were born from the idea of diamond clippings from glossy magazines, where every second page sported yet another big-name brand and their jewelry products, whether Cartier, Tiffany’s or the ‘perfect gift’ from Bvulgari- why does it matter? Once carefully removed from their context and stuck down amongst the rocks of the photo, even Aarons’s celebrity subjects couldn’t tell the difference. In another, the mundane European beach scene embedded within the pool, and a milkyway encrusted with beads painting the sky, the two ladies sit unaware of any change, subtlety depicting the reality of what Aaron’s captured almost 50 years ago.

In my eyes, Aaron’s works epitomise photographic perfection, being an artist in his own right, and in doing so, he constantly defined the image of the ‘Beautiful People’, the Hollywood jet setters and those who strode the world’s stage in the postwar decades like young gods.

Despite deconstructing Aaron’s best, or creating my own from scratch, an original print from this photography god has most definitely cemented itself at the top of my art lust list, dreaming about the day I can sit poolside with Slim Aaron’s himself in company.

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“Poolside with Slim Aarons” series, 2014 1/3

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“Poolside with Slim Aarons” series, 2014 2/3

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“Poolside with Slim Aarons” series, 2014 3/3

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The Face that Stops a Nation

archibald

It’s easy to forget about Sydney’s galleries when you’re constantly flooded with eye candy via Instagram, blogs and even Facebook groups promoting the new art curations. It isn’t until you’re back in the flesh of it all that you truly appreciate the talent that seeps through our own sandstone walls, rather than the ones we travel so far to visit. While it’s definitely no MOMA, and (only just) slightly less impressive than the Guggenheim herself, NSW Art Gallery puts on the annual Archibald Prize, showcasing the iconic Australian faces which are identified even without a plaque. I slipped in last minute today to see the finalists hung proudly, with eyes staring from every direction and the hushed murmurs of young and old alike- all putting on their best critic voices from the other side of the canvas. I’ve always thought judging art is too hard a job, almost defeating the point of it being so subjective and contextual; and when viewing the winner for this year, Fiona Lowry’s Penelope Seidler, I almost get frustrated at not agreeing with the choice. Poised, centre-frame and created with one colour, the subject stares out of her canvas, almost through the audience- like something out of a modern horror movie. Being a fond drawer myself, while I can appreciate the impeccable talent, it just wasn’t sitting right- so off I was into the next room, slightly moved by the haunting figure staring at me while I made my exit.

This year, portraits hung in all shapes and sizes- sporting Missy Higgins and her lesbian lover, Bollywood scenes and a reflection from a Spongebob Squarepants helium balloon, proving, that when a brilliant hand meets their perfect subject, magic happens. It’s as much about the subject as it is the artist, where the average viewer recognises those familiar faces- titled Cate, Take 1/ Cate, Take 2, synonymous even without the Blanchett to accompany it- urging the question, who would I use as my subject?

Art is a funny thing- should you like it based purely on what it looks like on first glance? Or is it so embedded with the artist’s meaning and emotion that it will take two visits to feel that connection? My Grandma showed me a whole new side to a gallery safari today, where the exhibition booklet was snatched up first thing through the doors, pen out, and notes written- by the end of the tour not a blank space left. My little brother however, took a sketch pad and pencil- almost invisible amongst the swarm of people as he sat drawing on the classic gallery bench, developing his own masterpieces every inch at a time…hopefully the first steps to his own portrait piece. My sister, looking through her third eye, the i-phone camera lens, moved from one to the other, documenting every step of the way- I suppose (and I hope) the 21st century, hipster-eqsue way of appreciating the talent on show.

Though often marked with controversies and the lack of wall space to hang them all, it puts the best Australian talent on view like no other arts prize can. For that I am proud, and the next time I find myself marvelling at Picasso in Musee D’Orsay, i’ll have hope that maybe one day in the future, an Archibald will grace those same walls, so that they too, can be appreciated for generations to come.

Below are my favourite portraits from what I saw today.

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Inner-city Retrospective

Elsie's House final

When asked by a dear friend if I would “please mind my house, just for the few weeks while i’m away,” it sparked my immediate “yes” and no quicker would you see my bags packed, keys handed over and candles burning. Usually residing in the North, becoming accustomed to inner-city living resulted in 5 minute buses to any impulse destination, more of a weeknight night-life than ever thought possible, and a two bedroom Victorian-era terrace resembling the likes of my old dollhouse- it was perfect. While yes, it gave me a new appreciation for the simple things in life- space, food and cleanliness- it also made me adopt the Paddington care-factor. I’m referring to the experimental spirit of each individual’s style, colour-blocked striped coats, and the (at time, disgusting) amounts of designer bags. 

With the idea that I would be shipping my own wardrobe over, I took it upon myself to venture into the endless supply of cashmere, Chanel and enough Acne boots to cater for their Spring runway parade that the house had on offer. The resulting images are of a girl whose dream wardrobe was finally at her disposal, and the chance to temporarily claim the Zadig fur was hers. While it was hard not to get carried away in this fantasy land of fashion and nik-naks, it brings you back down to earth when you realise the dishwasher won’t unpack itself, or the terrace’s inability to handle too much power. I did however, constantly find myself ironing in my star boots, or facing the dreaded uni work whilst dressed to the nines in every hue the Joseph blazer had on offer. Things reached an all-time crescendo when it came to eating out every meal, whether it was Jackie’s Cafe for her famous feta scrambled eggs, or the Drunken Chicken sandwich at Ruben Hills down the road, but nothing beat the Sunday morning feast at Kepos Street Kitchen- where pastries were in endless supply and the demand wasn’t far behind. It was when the bank account was hitting all time lows and I found myself mid-lecture with Helmut suit pants and no bralette beneath my lace cami, that I knew I was in trouble. 

United by our love for design, all things fashion and an appreciation for anything originally beautiful, the unprecedented work-ethic seeping from every item in the house cemented that cliche advice of working hard, simply means- you get to play even harder. These are words epitomised in the humble owner, who graces the house each day and night, clad with the freshest look off the runway, and an even fresher tan from her recent Mykonos ‘work trip’- there is no doubt the luxury, the decadence and endless wardrobe supply are well kept and well deserved. The portrait of a PR patriarch: confident, creative and humble, while constantly taking each opportunity one giant leap at a time, my house-sitting experience was a week-long burst of inspiration more than anything, and I thank you, Elsie, for having me. 

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Magali Pascal skirt and Isabo Tee Top, Isabel Marant coat 

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Acne Studios jeans, men’s t-shirt, leather MC jacket and Jensen Boots 

 

 

 

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