Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bestfiend tells us about pants beard!

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Jung and the Restless by BESTFIEND


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Installation view of BESTFIEND works at Beardo.


Tell us about yourself! Where are you from and what type of work do you do?
BESTFIEND is the name of our creative team of two: Shannon O’Shea & Benj Dawe.
We are inspired by creative tensions and are dedicated to outlandish ideas, moderated by a playful, tongue in cheek honesty.  We teamed up with an outrageously talented team of photographers for this project; Coruscade and Michelle Grace Hunder photography, who have pushed our concept into a new stratosphere.

What attracted you to make work about beards?
What is not attractive about beards! They're defining yet temporary, mysterious yet comforting, authentic yet daring, so opposing and playful we couldn't resist. Our art is often about opposing ideas and finding harmony in creating something new.

Are you surprised by the reaction for 'beard related' art and how popular the beard is?
We love the Beardo movement, it's exciting to see authenticity and a push for something more genuine. Dudes are keeping it real with their faces, we sent the idea a little further south for women, keeping it real with their pants beards.

What attracted you to take part in Beardo - the exhibition?
We used the artistic theme ‘Beardo’ as a symbol of disposability. The beard can be utterly defining and yet easily removed. So with our artwork we questioned what is disposable in culture, as an idea or cultural reference is defining of an era and social group, until it is forgotten or re-hashed into something new.

The viewer can reflect and interpret cultural icons (and their beards) in a fresh and entertaining way. We have mixed radical thinkers with popular culture in a playful yet exploitive manner. ‘Jung and the Restless’, ‘Pink Freud’, ‘Marx and Spencer’ are statements on objects that are projected near a model, she is wearing underwear we've painted to look like the philosophers face, the beard is attached from faux fur, voila, pants beards and cultural mash-ups. Taking the reference out of its time into a current context. The photographs are limited edition prints.

What do you think people will take away with them from seeing your work?
Humour, fun and thought and hopefully they'll tell all their friends.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting beardy (and moustached!) with Rebecca Van Der Werff...

Beardo exhibition 004
Madonna with a Mo... by Rebecca Van Der Werff


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Elvis with a Mo... by Rebecca Van Der Werff

We posed some questions to one of our Beardo artists Rebecca Van Der Werff about her works in the current exhibition.  We loved the fact that Rebecca came to the launch in her gorgeous 'Moustache' tee-shirt so she certainly looked the part!

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from and what type of work do you do?
I would consider myself as an emerging Melbourne artist and moustache enthusiast. Predominately an oil painter, I have developed a style mainly consisting of monochromatic photorealism, exploring themes of pop culture, nostalgia and absurdity.

What attracted you to make work about beards?
Beards can express so many things. The work I've submitted are about culture, literature, religion, affection, celebrity and identity. Quite a lot to deal with, yet the versatility of facial hair can say all of this with just a few whiskers.

 I have an unusual obsession with male facial hair, especially moustaches, that stems back to my childhood when I would stand under my dad and stare up at him in the mirror whilst he pulled unusual faces during his shaving ritual. What a bizzare concept... hair growing out of his face! Since then beards, moustaches and sideburns have taken over my radar therefore altering every day outings and casual magazine flipping moments to a safari of “oohs,” “squees,” and “hey look at that one.”
I love beards. I love art. It only seemed natural to put the two together

Are you surprised by the reaction for 'beard related' art and how popular the beard is?
No not really, I think that beards have different connotations to every individual. They are as ever present and diverse as the female figure or a city sky line... they are there, why not admire them.


What attracted you to take part in Beardo - the exhibition?
I actually heard about the exhibition when I was in the midst of job hunting. I was looking for a way to create a 'new me'. Like the celebrity's I've painted, a splash of facial hair is all you need to become a new person. Being apart of Beardo was simply an obvious and appropriate decision at the time. I only wish I had more work to submit. I was almost tempted to slap a beard on every artwork I've ever painted.

What do you think people will take away with them from seeing your work?
I make my work for one main reason; pure self amusement. I hope that people will look at my work and be equally amused, even for just a second. And if they aren't, I'm sure it will "grow" on them over time.

Come and check out Rebecca's works as part of Beardo until 18 December!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beards from Queensland with Josh Rufford!

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Installation by Josh Rufford.

We are loving having this menagerie of objects and artworks by the very talented Josh Rufford.  As the curator here at Town Hall Gallery, I have to give Josh an award for the most detailed installation map, it was so easy to replicate this fantastic display as per his instructions.

I love all of these works and objects and can't help but see something new everytime I go by!  His works are also very affordable if you would like a little bit of Josh Rufford in your house too!  Check out his website here!

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from and what type of work do you do?

Hello. I'm Josh. I live in Brisbane. I like to make things from all sorts of materials and mediums. I like to draw and paint and create little sculpture-y things from found objects and recycled materials. At the moment I'm really enjoying making bookends from reclaimed timber and discarded PVC offcuts and scraps.

What attracted you to make work about beards?

I'm not really sure. I just kinda like drawing from things around me and I guess having a beard and knowing alot of people with beards. Also I seem to incorporate myself or alter-egos of myself into a lot of my work. It is fun to draw hair, especially messy hair.

Are you surprised by the reaction for 'beard related' art and how popular the beard is?

Not really, I mean looking back through history and seeing the number of portraits and imagery of beards is real interesting. I grew up surrounded by beards (my dad, uncles and family friends) so I've always thought they were pretty cool.

What attracted you to take part in Beardo - the exhibition?

It sounded like a really fun and interesting show.

What do you think people will take away with them from seeing your work?

Hopefully a bit of a smile or giggle. I just really enjoy creating different things and looking and thinking about things from all angles.

Don't forget that Beardo is on until 18th December, so pop in and take a look!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Catalogue essay for Beardo by Mardi Nowak

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Woven tapestry by Daniel Edwards, part of the Beardo exhibition.


The beard. Men can grow them, some women can too. However there is something powerful, seductive and mysterious about the beard. It is a sign of manhood, where a man can grow a flowing and full beard proudly but those whose beards are sparse and patchy are often looked down upon. The beard is one way that men can express their individuality and personality. It is an extension of who they are and in many ways can define their look.

The beard has proudly been on the face of men for thousands of years. It has many connotations from the cultural and religious meanings of the Sikhs or orthodox Jews, to more popular culture associations such as musicians ZZ top or Ned Kelly. I still firmly believe that Australian cricketers played better when they sported facial hair. They were tougher and more aggressive than their 'metrosexual' counterparts who are more concerned with highlighting their hair and manicures than playing cricket!

The beard conjures many images. From a sinister man who is hiding something, to the hobo who hasn't any means to shave. There's the aristocrat who in his dandy clothes, preens his beard to become a fashion accessory, which is seen in some of Dave Mead's Magnificent Specimen photographs. There are the iconic beards such as that of Abraham Lincoln, who didn't have a beard all of his life but it is the image of the bearded Lincoln that we best remember.

In gay culture, the Bear is LGBT slang for those in bear communities and subcultures. The bears tend to be hairy and don facial hair and present a hyper masculine image to the rest of society. In this case, the beard is a strong symbol of their culture and how they wish to be perceived.

Within the Beardo exhibition, we see female artists explore the idea of the 'pants beard' and the 'lady beard', both slang for female pubic hair. While men wear their beards with pride, society pushes women to become hair free. In recent years there have been trends to dye and shape pubic hair almost as topiary. This trend first started on European catwalks, with fashion product companies soon following as another way of selling absurd products to their female consumers. Artists BESTFIEND and duo Katie Jacobs and Brittany Veitch, playfully tackle these ideas within their works in an attempt for women to embrace their natural bodies, whilst poking fun at popular culture.

While most women will never know the experience of growing a beard, artist Zoe Steers and writer Laura Smith explore the notion of time and beard growing in their installation Nest. The embroidery hoops hold various hair like materials that form beards. These beards will grow throughout the exhibition, like they would in real life, whilst being filmed and photographed throughout the time period.

This style of time lapse, documentary style photography of beard growing isn't a new thing. Website Whiskerino (www.whiskerino.org) encourages men to shave clean on the 1st of November and let their beards grow until the 28th February. Participants share their stories and photographs of their beards weekly to see how others progress is going. The Whiskerino website states: "Let us return to our roots! Let us return to true masculinity! Let us cry out with one voice: I WILL HAVE A BEARD!! I WILL BE A MAN!! I WILL NOT CONFORM TO YOUR RULES!"

This idea of the beard becoming a symbol of non-conformity can be seen in Josh Rufford's works. His character is a free-spirited, surfie dude who drinks beer and seems to do whatever he likes. Naturally his wild beard, expresses this freedom.

As curator of Beardo, this exhibition always intended to showcases beards from the Town Hall Gallery Collection as well as works from a young breed of contemporary artists who use the beard as a symbol to express masculinity, sexuality, consumerism and folklore. Inspired by the many portrait works held in the Town Hall Gallery Collection that feature some impressive facial hair, I started to notice the resurgence of beards and questioned why people had returned to the beard in both art and fashion.

Is it a new fashion? Is it a backlash to the metrosexual male? Are they just expressing non-conformity? Whatever the reasons are for the return of the beard, Beardo offers you a taste of some of the extremes, passions and stories behind the beard.

Essay by Mardi Nowak, November 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beat Magazine talks about Beardo!

Dave Mead Steven Raspa
Photograph of Steve Raspa by Dave Mead.


Thanks to Lin Tan for this great article about our upcoming exhibition Beardo which featured in this weeks Beat Magazine!

Beardo's For The Weirdo's
Welcome to the curious and ever-fascinating world of beards and the people who grow them. Some, like Hans Langseth who died in 1927, decided to grow his beard to a world-record length of 17 and a half feet. Others, like Steven Raspa, decided to trademark his magnificent chin mane – a dreadlock-esque, over-shoulder beard beautified with a single flower at its tip.

Beardo - so rightly named - is Town Hall Gallery’s latest exhibition on all things related to the beard. The showcase blends work from the gallery’s permanent art collection as well as work from contemporary artists and includes painting, textiles, photography and installations.

“I noticed that we have a lot of historical paintings and photographs of these men sporting really fantastic beards and great facial hair,” says Mardi Nowak, curator of Beardo. “They’re the kind of things that rarely get shown other than in historical contexts, and I sort of thought it would be really great as a way of getting them out there.”

Maybe it’s the fact that her husband sports a beard – maybe not – but over the last two years, Nowak began noticing the ubiquitous presence of facial hair not just on the streets, but in the work of many contemporary artists. “Personally I think there’s a bit of a backlash in terms of the whole metrosexual man,” says Nowak of the recent resurgence of beardage acceptance. “But I also think women have kind of gotten a bit over it as well and enjoying having their men look like men.”

Whilst there’s undoubtedly a certain playfulness to the exhibition, Beardo is also an engaging look into the symbolism behind the beard. With a juxtaposition of historical and contemporary works, we see facial hair in the light of folklore and tradition, as well as a conceptual exploration of beards as a symbol of sexuality and manliness. Furthermore, the act of growing a beard and styling it also suggests a sense of vanity, masked under the macho veil of masculinity.

American photographer, Dave Mead will be exhibiting six photographs he took while documenting the 2009 World Championship Beard and Moustache Competition. ““I wanted Dave’s photos because these were real people who are really passionate about the way that they look, and the kind of way they express themselves is through their beards,” says Nowak. “It’s a part of who you want the world to think you are and see you, and represent yourself.”

Aside from Mead, other local artists have created interesting, outside-the-box new works themed on beards. Fashion designing duo, Shannon O’Shea and Beni Dawe of Best Fiend bring a playful, popular culture twist to the theme in the form of ‘pants beard’, which, to put it tersely, are knickers with beards on them.
More specifically, “They have actually produced a series of underwear that highlights iconic social-thinking people who had facial hair onto the underwear,” says Nowak. Included in their installation are the bearded images of the likes of Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx titled Pink Freud and Marx and Spencer, respectively.

The beard, often a symbol of wisdom and intellect, is interpreted in an entertaining and refreshing way. “They’ve actually collaborated with some great photographers and created these fashion shoots, but they are a kind of play where these girls have these really weird underwear with men’s faces with beards on them.” Best Fiend’s installation will include photographs as well as the actual pants beards.

Interestingly, female artists have also expressed an interest in contributing to the exhibition, bringing to Beardo what they’ve coined as ‘the lady beard’, “which are comments about the pubic and nether region ‘lady beards’, and how in different societies, women are on that kind of crazy Brazillian waxing. So, comments on the opposite of how men are growing these beards and how women are ‘hairing’ themselves.”
Bridging the feminine and masculine divide of facial hair is tapestry artist, Dan Edwards whose work has often centred on beards. “They’re beautiful tapestries that have this real ‘70s edge to them that involves really beautiful pattern making,” explains Noward. “It’s that kind of cross between really masculine and feminine in terms of the material.”

With a wealth of different interpretations of beards, Beardo is sure to spark some interesting conversations between the works presented. “One of the other groups of artists talks about the beard being very disposable. She says that it is utterly defining but in a minute or two, it can be shaved off and reveals the person underneath as well,” says Nowak. “They are very defining for people, and we definitely have a generation of younger men that are embracing the beard.”
Beardo features the work of Dave Mead, Dan Edwards, BESTFIEND, Josh Rufford, Rebecca Van Der Werff, Christie Torrington, Lura Smith & Zoe Steers and Katie Jacobs and Brittany Veitch. The exhibition opens on Wednesday November 24 until Saturday December 18. You can also take part in two special public programs – In Conversation with the curator and Beardo artists on Saturday November 27 at 2pm and a beard-making workshop on Sunday December 5 from 10.30am-3pm. They’re both free.
By LIN TAN