20-20 Hindsight

fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Exhibition Dates: 22 February - 5 March 2022
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday 11am - 5pm
Saturday 12pm - 4pm

Exhibition Text

This exhibition began with the thought, 'What does Collins Street look like at 5pm in 2020 lockdown?'.

20-20 Hindsight : A Melburnian Perspective, is a reflection on the social and political climate that evolved in 2020 and has been fermenting in surprising ways ever since. It consists of just five works. Four of the five reference paintings by John Brack on themes of Melbourne society and culture in the 1950s. The other work references a very different artist and not a Melburnian: Andy Warhol.

A signature event of 2020 was the 120 consecutive press conferences delivered to Victorians by Daniel Andrews from 3rd July to 30th October. For that Brack failed to provide me any suggestion or inspiration. That came instead from Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans.

'Press Conferences, 120 days of Daniel' is a 2.35m by 4.45m composition created in collaboration with graphic designer, Gregory Alex-Vasey. The 120 images of Daniel Andrews, extracted from electronic media, reflect the Premier's gestures and body language as he stood and answered questions until the journalists had no more. Text and a graphic accompanying each image locate that day in overall context.

The words 'gold standard' bring to mind Scott Morrison's indirect swipes at Daniel Andrews through his praise of NSW. In my painting, 'Gold Standard', Gladys Berejiklian and Scott Morrison replace Brack's Jockey and his wife in an uneasy unity with its own set of tensions.

In 2020 Trump's hypnotic effect on millions was felt everywhere. Facilitated and amplified by his weapons of choice, television and, especially, social media, it hung over our political climate just as it did elseywhere. Brack's 'The telephone box' undergoes a radical transformation into 'Social Media', a digital collage showing Donald Trump in place of the lady on the telephone in her curlers. (An additional influence in this work was Raphael's Sistine Madonna.)

In 'Collins St 5pm, 2020', we look into the foyer at 356 Collins St, just near where Brack used to meet with friends up after work before going for a drink. The foyer windows reflect the view of the street much like the one depicted in Brack's Collins St. The level of detail is akin to the information overload we are subject to daily but the crowds of office workers are nowhere to be seen.

Finally, 'Hat Shop', recalls Brack's Men's wear: Two very different interiors, two very different impressions. In Brack's painting a single mirror catches the reflection of the artist. In 'Hat Shop' many reflections present multiple partial views of the space and even of the artist.

The exhibition will be available to view in the gallery at fortyfivedownstairs, as well as online. We hope the exhibition will include public programming in the form of an artist's talk and walkthrough. Details to be announced.

James Yuncken, February 2022