It’s 2017 and time to get back onto the Blog, which fell by the wayside somewhat in the chaos of 2016.
2016 was a big year for Black Parrot in so many ways. We listened to a lot of Bowie and Leonard Cohen on Spotify (and mourned the loss of a special part of our collective soul); we renovated the Mittagong shop to make a big gallery space the first thing you see when you come through the door; we introduced new lines of mouldings (including the fancy Bellini mouldings); and we bought new equipment and set up a new, more efficient workshop. In a busy year, December might have been our busiest month. We launched our cinema ad at Empire Cinemas (that is featured on the home page of the website) and Prudy and I got married (that was a big project!).
In amongst all that I managed to present a short paper at the AICCM conference in Melbourne, “AICCM Frame: Concept History and Conservation.” The conference was linked to the Degas exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, and it was so interesting I didn’t even manage to sneak out to see the Degas show! It was also a great introduction to the small but serious community of Australian framing nerds.
So for my first few thought-bubbles of the year I figured I should jot down some of the discoveries I made in Melbourne, which included few of great chats with Dr Ian Geraghty (conservation framer and fellow PhD graduate from CoFA), Ruben Rich (who hand carves ornamental frames) and Lynn Roberts (who is famous in framing circles for her blog).
To begin though, I should post the abstract for the paper I presented. It was a summary of some of my thoughts over my first year of picture framing after a decade and a half of art theory teaching:
"In art theory, picture frames are present everywhere but rarely ever the focus of analysis or theoretical investigation. We can find quality scholarship on individual artists or frame-makers in relation to the history of framing, but the bulk of published research is of the connoisseurial sort, detailing very specific historical developments or individual artist's practices, or it is oriented towards conservation. In terms of "art theory" it is hard to skirt perilous puns about the marginality of the picture frame.
Paradoxically however, analyses of the activity of the frame, aesthetically or conceptually, exist as a profoundly influential thread underpinning this same discourse: From Kant's Third Critique, to Heidegger’s The Origin of the Work of Art, to Greenberg faced with the paradox of the blank canvas (at once picture and object), and Derrida writing on the Passe-Partout in The Truth in Painting, the frame constitutes the artwork as Art. Similarly the frame itself, far from being marginal in 20th Century art, recurs as a central concern. Malevich's Black Square is influential because it is as much a white frame as it is a black square - it is easily read as a passe-partout, cut adrift with nothing or everything inside. Similarly Eva Hesse's Hang Up, Robert Barry's Inert Gas Series, and Piero Manzoni's The Base of the World, are foundational works in post-modern art discourse which we can read as frames turned inside out.
So, while we have a very fertile territory, rimmed on all sides by sophisticated art and scholarship, I would argue that we need a theoretical engagement with the picture frame as we find it between the extremes of the conceptual and the particular. We need a theoretical engagement with what can happen in those few inches beyond the picture surface before we get to the world at large."