Featured image: The Old Red Tag Series #1 & #3, 119x84 cm

Tag 2005: A Major Solo Exhibition

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Featured image: The Old Red Tag Series #1 & #3, 119 x 84 cm

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  7 May 2016

 Tag 2005: A Major Solo Exhibition


Tag Tony Stewart

Huw Davies Gallery, Manuka Arts Centre, Canberra 1-19 September 2005

Tag n. a label providing identification or giving other information

Meta Tag n. a hidden label intended to lure a search engine


Introduction

The old red tag series #79, Pool 3, July 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

The old red tag series #79, Pool 3, July 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

Following the success of my two opening exhibitions Use By and Transit in 2002, I set out to create a body of work in a new direction, but building on the inspiration that I began with.

One driving idea behind the making of work during this period was the idea of SIMPLICITY that is focusing down and trying to create meaningful work with few elements.

The other idea, which actually took up much more time, was the honing of skills learned and technique, that is, getting much better at the photomedia methods that I had been learning on the computer, and attempting to produce a more polished product through practice.

The Work

Simplicity

The old red tag series #14, Sky 2, February 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

The old red tag series #14, Sky 2, February 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

I developed and settled on the idea of the PRIMAL BREADTAG, that is, one breadtag to attempt to convey all that I had been conveying in my arrays previously. In other words, trying to make a complex artistic statement with minimal props. This might sound easy but it wasn’t because like anything new it took time to find the ideas and to establish what worked and what didn’t. The practice and the making, from memory, was obsessive and required an enormous amount of experimentation to actually turn an idea into something that worked.

The old red tag series #31, Graffiti 1, February 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

The old red tag series #31, Graffiti 1, February 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

Simplicity or primal tags were severe and limiting (in the same way that sticking the original plastic breadtags onto carboard in random patterns had been). I would sometimes sneak off, so to speak, and explore something else, a different modus operandi, anything. The process was akin perhaps to a naughty child or a sulky teenager skiving off, because it had all become too difficult. What emerged from the running away was a plethora of other ideas, exploration and probably plenty of time wasting.

The work that emerged from the simplicity I called The Old Red Tag Series, some of which achieved what I was wanting to a greater or lesser degree.

The running away was the beginning or dippinga-toe-in-the-water of complexity, which developed into two strands.

Hidden worlds

The Hidden Worlds idea was possibly inspired by M.C. Escher. I certainly played extensively with an Escher drawing and breadtags at a later date. I’m sure you know the one, of a pond with black trees reflected on the water, leaves floating and a fish lurking beneath. Certainly this image explains my idea of hidden worlds.

Different realities

Different realities followed from Hidden Worlds but the content was further removed towards an alien or quite different perspective.


Hidden worlds #1, Untitled, July 2005, Digital Pigment Inkjet Print on Roughtex paper, 114x114 cm

Hidden worlds #1, Untitled, July 2005, Digital Pigment Inkjet Print on Roughtex paper, 114×114 cm

Catalogue Essay

Tag by Sasha Grishin

When did the ubiquitous use-by date plastic tag, employed to fasten plastic bags with perishable produce and found in every supermarket, first appear? I don’t know, but it is a modern invention. Although it is examined closely by most of us on an almost daily basis, it is also taken for granted and it is often overlooked. Like the plastic bags themselves, the tag is accepted as a necessity, even if it adds to global pollution.

Different realities #4, Notes for a new reality — Star Wars Program module V — 'Pre-emption of protorefugees from space' or 'Kill 'em before they become a problem', August 2005, Lambda Print, 28 x 23 cm

Different realities #4, Notes for a new reality — Star Wars Program module V — ‘Pre-emption of protorefugees from space’ or ‘Kill ’em before they become a problem’, August 2005, Lambda Print, 28 x 23 cm

Tony Stewart is a self-taught artist who over a number of years has developed a fascination with this plastic tag, both as a symbol for globalisation and as a metaphor for a window into art and into different cultures. His initial attraction to its shape, the strange Greek π with a key hole in the middle, led to experiments with seriality. Tags were arranged like postage stamps in an album, where the slightest variation could lead to abrupt changes in the created patterns.

Subsequently he started to digitally scan in the tag shape with its encoded emblems of date and serial number and then through Adobe Photoshop he manipulated its content and the surrounding colour fields. The tag, which was previously a minor still life object, now became a potent presence, a loaded image which operated on many different levels. John Gage’s writings on colour and culture was one point of departure, Stewart’s own travels was another, as well as I suspect his training in biological sciences in which he received a PhD in 1979.

This exhibition, which presents about two and a half years work, consists of three intimately interrelated series of images: the old red tag series, hidden worlds and different realities. While the tag shape is common to all three, the intent and purpose of the prints changes.

Hidden worlds #3, Fallon Days, July 2005, Lambda Print, wood, fabric, ceramic, paint, 182 x 72.5 cm, Artist's proof

Hidden worlds #3, Fallon Days, July 2005, Lambda Print, wood, fabric, ceramic, paint, 182 x 72.5 cm, Artist’s proof

In the old red tag series, which Tony Stewart describes as consisting of ‘primal tags’, where the means have been restricted to form, scale and colour, an artistic statement is formulated with an absolutely minimal number of props. To see the humble red bread tag blown up to a scale of 66.5 x 66.5 cm, or alternatively 24 x 24 cm, a strategy possibly adopted from Pop Art, makes the familiar appear as unfamiliar.

The tag whose only purpose for existence is its function as an indicator of the expiry date and its use in the sealing of the plastic bag, has been rendered functionless, its common everyday banality has been reassessed as a symbol in an artwork. It appears now as a signifier of a different sort of reality, one of ephemeral objects and transient technologies.

Realised either as digital inkjet prints on Hahnemühle photo rag paper or as digital Lambda prints, the images command a considerable sense of presence, particularly when presented boldly articulated against vividly coloured backgrounds. Almost like variations on a theme, the artist subverts the severity of the image by slipping in either specific designs including clouds, floral designs, Campbell’s soup cans (in homage to Warhol) or swimming pools (in homage to Hockney), onto the shape of the tag, or introduces radical changes to the brightly coloured and variously patterned backgrounds. The tag gains the status of a monumental emblem—like a technological totem.

The three prints of the hidden worlds series are generally twice or three times the size of works in the previous series and thrive on the idea of layered complexity. Science, technology and imagination meet and collide building up a complex palimpsest, where the viewer grows aware of the existence of different sorts and levels of reality. This idea is taken further in the different realities series, where the tags move into complex patterns as in Genetic Drift 1 or into actual three dimensional space in Louvres 4, somewhat precariously arranged on the Perspex panes of an actual louvred window permitting changes in the perspective of observation.

Tony Stewart was trained as a scientist, and in his approach to art making there is something akin to that of a clinical investigation. It is an obsessive approach with a certain predetermined logic, where bit by bit he furthers his exploration. Although it is an enterprise of great seriousness and he does engage with broad questions of global universality and cultural specificity, the work is also laced with a great deal of humour. On a rather basic level through the auspices of the everyday supermarket expiry date tag he invites us to examine the different levels of reality which each one of us experiences in our daily lives.

Professor Grishin is Head, Art History at the Australian National University, and an author, critic and commentator on the visual arts

Hidden worlds #2, Untitled, May 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 152 x 114 cm

Hidden worlds #2, Untitled, May 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 152 x 114 cm


Comment

The old red tag series #10, Campbell's Soup, 3 April 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

The old red tag series #10, Campbell’s Soup, 3 April 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

It’s hard to remember back to what one thought and felt at a particular time. Use By and Transit in 2002, indeed, the whole of 2002 as Allan Byrne had predicted was the hardest thing I had ever done and it was all so new. I would never treat lightly on anyone’s attempts to make art and to hold exhibitions.

In retrospect, my remembrance of working, making and exhibiting Tag is encompassed by the word monumental. Everything about it seems like that. Starting out on the work, which took two and a half to three years of full-time effort, developing the ideas and presenting them in visual form was hard, engrossing but immensely satisfying. I remember when I invited Sasha Grishin over to view and comment on the work was a frightening but rewarding experience. I remember being disturbed when Sasha called my work obsessive but he meant it in a constructive way; although it took me some time to recognise this.

Tag was and still is an immense step forward in my making art.


Further Photos and Slides of Tag Work

The old red tag series #32, Graffiti 2, February 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

The old red tag series #32, Graffiti 2, February 2005, Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm

The photos are on Picasa albums to return use the back arrow on your browser. The slideshows can also be used as click through carousels. You can also navigate into a slideshow or carousel in Picasa. Top left or click on photo.

Photos of Tag Works

For slides with captions see Slideshow of Tag Works

Alternatively, go to Galleries  and Slideshows for more instructions


Key Words: Tag, Transit, Use By, Tony Stewart, Sasha Grishin, Escher, Hockney, Warhol, Huw Davies Gallery


Further Information

Tag Catalogue

Tag Works 
1 Hidden Worlds #1

$1350
Untitled, July 2005
Digital Pigment Inkjet Print on Roughtex paper
Image size: 98 x 98 cm; paper size: 114 x 114 cm
Edition of 25; artist’s proof
(Patan double ikat cloth sample provided by Claudia Hyles)
The old red tag series

Digital Pigment Inkjet Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper
Image size: 66.5 x 66.5 cm; paper size: 118.9 x 84.1 cm
Edition of 25; artist’s proof
2 The old red tag series #3$985
Untitled, July 2005
3 The old red tag series #1$985
Untitled, March 2005
4 The old red tag series #5$985
Untitled, April 2005
5 Hidden worlds#2

$1150
Untitled, May 2005
Lambda Print
152 x 114 cm
Edition of 25; 2/25
6 Hidden worlds #3

$1450
Fallon Days, July 2005
Lambda Print, wood, fabric, ceramic, paint
Image size: 182 x 72.5 cm
Artist’s proof
The Old Red Tag Series


Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm
Edition of 25; 2/25
7 The old red tag series #46 $225*
Tie 2, February 2005
8 The old red tag series #47 $225
Tie 3, February 2005
9 The old red tag series #58 $225
Snowy 5, February 2005
10 The old red tag series #30 $225
Windows, February 2005
11 Different realities #4

$300
Notes for a new reality 1—Star Wars Program module V—‘Preemption of protorefugees
from space’ or ‘Kill ’em before they become a problem’, August 2005
Lambda Print
28 x 23 cm
Edition of 25; 2/25
12 Different realities #2

$300
Louvres 3, August 2003
Lambda Print
30 x 21 cm
Edition of 25; 2/25
13 Different realities #3

$4500
Louvres 4, August 2005
Lambda Prints, wood, metal louvres, paint, Perspex, glass
106.5 x 66 x 16 cm
(frame from a paddock by Chris Elford; louvre window from an O’Connor monocrete courtesy Judy Pearce)
The old red tag series

Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm
Edition of 25; 2/25
14 The old red tag series #66$225*
Sky 24, May 2005
15 The old red tag series #59$225
Sky 17, May 2005
16 The old red tag series #65
$225
Sky 23, May 2005
17 The old red tag series #78
$225
Pool 2, July 2005
18 The old red tag series #79
$225
Pool 3, July 2005
19 The old red tag series #14
$225
Sky 2, February 2005
20 The old red tag series #70$225
Sky 28, May 2005
21 The old red tag series #28
$225
Sky 16, February 2005
22 Different realities #1

$1150
Genetic Drift 1, July 2004
Lambda Print
152 x 114 cm
Edition of 25; 2/25
The old red tag series

Digital Lambda Print, 24 x 24 cm
Edition of 25; 2/25
23 The old red tag series #9
$225*
Campbell’s Soup 2, April 2005
24 The old red tag series #10$225
Campbell’s Soup 3, April 2005
25 The old red tag series #11$225
Campbell’s Soup 4, April 2005
26 The old red tag series #74$225
Still Life 2, May 2005
27 The old red tag series #75$225
Still Life 3, May 2005
28 The old red tag series #39$225
Graffiti 9, February 2005
29 The old red tag series #32$225
Graffiti 2, February 2005
30 The old red tag series #31
$225
Graffiti 1, February 2005
*The Old Red Tag Series: $225 unframed; $305 framed
+Different Realities #2 & #4: $300 unframed; $400 framed

Tag Catalogue PDF

Tag Catalogue PDF

Different realities #1Genetic Drift 1July 2004Lambda print152x114 cm

Different realities #1, Genetic Drift 1, July 2004, Lambda print, 152×114 cm

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