work / RONALD'S LIFE 2006
Ronald's Life 2006
12 panels 33cm x 33cm each
found photograph album pages on plywood
The Museum Effect
Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery
14 May - 28th June 2009
Ronald's Life follows on from recent work where I have used found photo's collected from around my home suburb of Brunswick (see both 'Brunswick Journal #3 2002 and Brunswick Journal 2005' ). Ronald's Life documents the history of an unknown 'Ronald' and chronicles his adventures from the age of three through to his marriage and then later, his children. This narrative is described through handwritten inscriptions below absent photographs. The photo corners that once held the photographs are also left stuck to the page, outlining where the photo's were once placed. These voids tell an interesting narrative in their own right. It is clear to see the shift over many years from the original Box Brownie images of the 1940s and 1950s, through to larger format photographs from the 1960s and finally a to a smaller, square format common throughout the 1970s...possibly including Polaroid images - a mini history of photography. With these absent images we are left to fill in the blanks. The markers that are left behind...'Ronald aged three', 'Ronald's new car', 'Ronald's marriage', 'Ronald with kids' - are universal themes, common to us all....Ronald's life story becomes our story as we share and remember the similar mapping points taken throughout our own lives. From a distance the work reads as an abstraction - a constellation of stars perhaps - it is only when the viewer gets close to the images that the work fully reveals itself and the inscriptions can be read. I have framed it in the dark brown frame similar to my 'Journal' works...I consider this box frame as acting in a similar way to a museum vitrine....containing objects of wonder...only in my case these objects are usually the overlooked and discarded ephemera of everyday existence. I discovered the album 'as is' in a junk store in Brunswick years ago...I found it far more interesting without the actual photo's than if they had still been left in the album. You don't necessarily need a photo to tell a 1000 words. Whatever the case it is a remarkable narative of ordinary, everday life...
edited extract from catalogue essay by Meryl Ryan for 'The Museum Effect'
"Peter Atkins has managed to balance a passion for collecting with opportunity for adventure, curating his Melbourne warehouse home around the classifying, storage and display of art and cultural objects, keepsakes and everyday finds. His art pillages these stores to present a meaningful partnership of narrative and aesthetic poise in museum-style box frames....Atkins' boxes join vitrines (Fiona Hall, Alex Beckett), bell jars (Trevor Weekes, Cassandra Schultz), reliquary cabinets (John Wolseley and Linda Freidheim) and lighting (Gregory Prior) to lean on the theatre of the museum and its position as an informed archivist. The 'museum effect' finds a form of concentration in Atkins' 12 panel installation of pages from a reclaimed junk shop photo album. From some distance, the empty white photocorners on black pages chart the odd constellations of stars; more intimately, the discrete text identifying absent images commemorates the ordinary landmark events in the seemingly ordinary life of an absent 'Ronald'. And we can't fail but identify with it. Magically, the presentation and this context transform Ronald into a symbolic everyman figure. Art, in collaboration with the accoutrement and / or archived wonder of the museum, has that potential. It revises the world in all its mystery and cultural complexity through the filter of the imagination, refreshing philosophical enquiry and perhaps even providing clues to the meaning of life."