Isn’t Jo’s book beautiful? Don’t you already feel a little close to it? A little familiar?
It’s inviting you to see. Inviting you to feel welcomed. Inviting you to peek into spaces that have been put together with great pride. A lot of people have gone to a lot of trouble for your visit. It’s ok if you’re a little late; everything’s protected for you under the cling wrap.
Although her practice works across media, Jo Grant has been exhibiting photography for a decade. Works from this collection have previously been exhibited at the Horsham Regional Gallery, as well as right here at the Centre for Contemporary Photography. Collected as a book, they’re now something you can hold in your hand rather than gaze at on a wall, and that changes your relationship with the works quite significantly. An artist book is an important presentation mode but it’s also, as a book, an important object that can be presented and handled with familiarity and with pride.
Jo Grant’s practice is careful, sensitive. The deft use of her hands, like a maker – on paper, in stitches – but also, her compositional eye – in collage, in photography. She’s interested in the everyday objects of the home: Tea towels, domestic ceramics. Stories, palimpsest. Drawing, layering. Collage, reframing, reappropriation, composition – photography.
In her essay, Professor Kate Darian-Smith offers a brief history and cultural study of agricultural shows in Australia. Among their passionate competitors and elbowing crowds, Prof Darian-Smith identifies Jo’s focus on the interstices, the “in-between points of place and time,” the “transitory intervals, pauses in the day,” the “renderings of the little details of ordinary moments… that attest to the community spirit in country Australia.”
Photo exhibit (32) shows us one of the only bodies that appears in the collection. And what a body: strong, firm, mixing hands, a baker’s belly. We look closer to find two other bodies in Standard heavy male (36). Is it an awkward boy proudly, shyly averting the gaze? Standing awkwardly next to the eponymous prize-winning chook, the sash draped about his own body, the bird stretching out a powerful claw in his direction. Is that fear or smirking glee? Is he proud, or distressed? Only when I look closer do I suspect the child is in fact a girl, with little sleeper earrings and tied back hair. Not quite the standard heavy male she’s draped to be.
It’s sensitivity – humility – pride that most strike me about All Prize Winners Paraded.
It’s pride that wraps the Most Points Citrus trophy in Jo’s Oranges (30) sitting on a shelf, waiting to be presented “in memory of Mr & Mrs Benham, 2003.” It’s pride that shines in the eyes of the faces we can’t make out in the background of Trifles (10), the only other work with human bodies depicted.
It’s a peculiarly regional Australian pride: there’s a real humility there, it’s not showy. The carefully tied gold ribbons around every deep blue napkin in CWA Rooms (14); the crisply starch-folded tablecloth in Salt and Pepper (20) and elsewhere…
The cover pumpkin – massive, shiny, lugubrious – slumped in the corner like a child who’s had enough of the great big show for one day – doesn’t it too look just a little self-satisfied, a little proud?
‘All prize winners paraded.’
Such a neat statement: a promise, but also a privilege.
Egalitarian, transparent, honest – which is what photography brings.
I am delighted to launch this sensitively crafted collection. I encourage you to take up the invitation that it offers you, and hold it for yourself in the intimacy of your homes.
All Prize Winners Paraded (Jo Grant), book launch, Centre for Contemporary Photography 2013 > book sales