While at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria a week or so ago ...
While at the National Gallery of Victoria a week or so ago for the corker Melbourne Art Book Fair, I wandered the gallery and found amongst their collection the Sheng Li series ‘Memories’, the photographs of his cut off finger, a protest against the 1989 events of Tiananmen Square.
In China not long before their Olympics, while working on ‘I Must Behave’, I bought a sealed copy of the May 2008 National Geographic magazine, a special pre-Olympic Games issue on China, which included one image from this Sheng Li series, although taken at a slightly different angle from the one hanging in the NGV.
I wrote the commentary below for GRANTA (105, Lost and Found, Spring 2009) when the magazine published my three-panel ‘Censored’ work recontextualizing three, censored, double-page spreads from this National Geographic issue.
The three panels were collected by the National Gallery of Australia in 2014.
“Pascal Invented Horse Porn From the Void” ASX
American Suburb X features ‘Body of Work’, September 18, 2016.
Truly obliged for Brad Feuerhelm’s adamant, high-order thoughts on ‘Body of Work’.
An excerpt ...
“What Bruce Connew’s book “Body of Work” recalibrates is the very interesting and historical metaphor of the horse, its breeding and its human-made enslavement towards a metaphorical barrage of existential delight. The horses in his work exist in a dim yet calculated light, full of treason and “nightmare” alike. The subjects within seem to wonder into the flood of a dim light bulb enhancing the theatrical aspect of their surrounding. There is little by way of human intervention in these images, but there are traces in a few of the photographs- notably the image of the person guiding the steed’s hard pulsing cock into the mare’s moist crevice. The light refracts off her in a discomforting way. The crevice is wet and perhaps even enhanced by lubrication and it looks to pulse like flesh in a David Cronenberg Film.”
“I wish to look at Bruce’s horses with a gleeful eye of doom. Everything feels somehow cyclical yet absent, the trials of life repeated. It is one of those books that landed in the post box that I did not ask for, but it is possibly the best book I have seen in a long time. Its execution and content are alluring and uncomfortable for reasons one does not see at first. It is like the void of existence that Pascal saw when contemplating his potential death in the waters of the Seine below…the current of life, its progression and its never-ending possibility for decline are all very akin to the work in the tome. Highest Recommendation.”
“Pascal Invented Horse Porn From the Void”
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‘Body of Work’ review for photo-eye, Book of the Week
Daniel Boetker-Smith reviews ‘Body of Work’ for photo-eye, Book of the Week.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
“Today Radiohead released their first new song in years. I’d set aside the afternoon especially to write this review of Bruce Connew’s newest publication ‘Body of Work’, with no idea that the quintet from Oxford who have crafted the soundtrack of my adult life would inadvertently tell me how to read and understand Connew’s book.
‘Street Spirit (Fade Out).’ I can remember the lurid lines: ‘Cracked eggs dead birds / scream as they fight for life / I can feel death / can see its beady eyes.’ These words have been etched into my psyche since I first heard them in 1995. Hearing these lines again today after a number of years it seems that nothing can more accurately describe Bruce Connew’s new book. Connew has been around, making books, since the late 80s, and he is somewhat of a national treasure in New Zealand; a prolific, smart and eminently generous artist. But he’s never made a work like this before, and I’m not sure he ever should or could again. This is his ‘Heart of Darkness’.
‘Body of Work’ review for Art Monthly Australasia
Jenny Harper, director of the Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand, reviews ‘Body of Work’.
Jenny Harper asks how the current politics of a public presentation of ‘Body of Work’ would play out in this excerpt from her review ‘Allure and discomfort’ for the March edition of Art Monthly Australasia.
“I also wonder at this body of work, the allure and discomfort it generates. Has Connew invented ‘horse porn’? Might these images be presented in a publicly funded gallery? We’d recommend discretion and show the work in an area not able to be wandered into, but would this be R18 as was the ‘X Portfolio’ of Robert Mapplethorpe when shown in Wellington in 1995? Would we ask for it to be classified? ‘Body of Work’ doesn’t have the banality of the subject’s comments added to Fiona Clark’s images of transvestites first shown in the 1970s, nor the fusion with religion which offended so many whether or not they were exposed to Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’ at the National Gallery of Victoria in the single weekend it was shown in 1997. How would the politics of a public presentation of ‘Body of Work’ play out now? Are we more or less risk-averse?”