Starting on Tuesday 31st May and running until Sunday 24th July, the Ian Potter Museum of Art will show a series of images illustrating the photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain. The exhibition focuses on their works between 1934 and 1945. This was the time of their professional relationship and it was a time of experimentation and growth for Australian photography. A total of 71 images will be on display.
Cotton and Dupain were influenced by the dramatic visualisation of the Surrealism movement with its element of surprise and juxtaposition, and industrial-age inspired Bauhaus movement. Their work shows the use of strong lighting and dramatic composition.
Dupain died in 1992 after almost six decades of artistic effort covering studio work, modernism, documentary and architectural photography. Olive Cotton who died in 2003 was married to Max Dupain between 1939 and 1941. The two shared a professional relationships for many years. Cotton was both evolutionary and revolutionary as a modernist photographer and as a female photographer – at a time when it would have been assumed that her role, at best was as assistant to a male photographer.
Modernism was an important development in art following the First World War as it sought to democratise art, to close the gap between fine art and craftwork and make art more accessible to a wider audience. While there were many modernist artists in Australia between the two World Wars, both Dupain and Cotton will be remembered for the works they created off seemingly everyday objects or scenes, forcing the audience to look at them in a different manner.
Dupain and Cotton photographed aspects of Australian life as it was changing after the Great War. Gone was the innocence of the past, replaced by a focus upon a new and hopeful future, based more upon reality than fantasy.
This exhibition is supported by the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach Program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.
Images: Top ‘Sunbaker’ by Max Dupain. Bottom ‘Tea Cup Ballet’ by Olive Cotton.