Ron English has bombed the global landscape with countless unforgettable images: on the street, in museums, in movies, in books and on television.
Coining the term ‘POPaganda’ to describe his signature mash-up of high and low cultural touchstones; from superhero mythology to totems of art history, his work is populated with a vast and constantly growing arsenal of original characters.
English featured in the hit movies Super Size Me and Exit Through the Gift Shop, and hosted Britain’s The Other America series on Sky TV; he has also made numerous television appearances worldwide.
He is the subject of the award-winning 2006 documentary POPaganda: the Art and Crimes of Ron English and the 2009 documentary Abraham Obama.
He has exhibited worldwide in numerous prestigious galleries and his work resides in the permanent collections of Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MACRO), Paris’s Museum of Modern Art, amongst others.
English continues to create art that propels unstated cultural norms just beyond the bounds of comfort into a disconcerting realm simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.
The green-spotted triangle butterfly is one species documented in the Atlas of Living Australia. (Credit: CSIRO)
by Natalie Muller
DON HOBERN REMEMBERS spending much of his childhood looking at beetles and moths without knowing how to identify what he was looking at. What he needed was a good book – one with pictures, descriptions and species distribution maps.
Now a trained computer programmer, Don is using his information technology skills to further his interest in natural history. He is leading a project that aims to make Australian biology collections available to the public via the web.
Don is the inaugural director of the Atlas of Living Australia, an online treasure trove of data about Australia’s native plants and animals. “The biggest problem most people have is understanding the wildlife around them and not knowing how to identify them,” he says.
The interactive encyclopaedia, which acts as both a Yellow Pages of Australian species and a social networking site for naturalists, is still a work in progress. But Don hopes it will be a handy resource for experts and policy makers, as well as for kids, eco-tourists and amateur naturalists.
So far the atlas features downloadable distribution charts, identification tools, images, scientific literature and data sets that provide as complete a picture as possible about each species. Eventually, DNA barcoding will also be added.
Photo: Australian Magpie.
The atlas was launched late last year and already contains more than 23 million records from museums and data collections around the country. But digitising Australia’s wildlife records is no small task.
That’s one of the reasons why the atlas team is encouraging the public to upload their own field notes, sightings and photographs to the encyclopaedia’s citizen science portal.
A selection of wonderful little illustrations found in a Fifteenth Century Book of Hours attributed to an artist of the Ghent-Bruges school and dating from the late 15th century.
In the pages without full borders the margins have been decorated with an array of different images depicting flowers, birds, jewellery, animals, household utensils and these superb rainbow-coloured ‘grotesques’.
“a little museum of common printed things, to illustrate at one and the same time the historical development of our social life and the development of printing”
The term ‘printed ephemera’, although used privately by the great English collector, John Johnson, was established in the public consciousness in 1962 by John Lewis’s work of that name which drew on Johnson’s collection, among others, to illustrate the range of ephemera.
Inspired by his career as a papyrologist, Johnson began collecting in the 1930s and viewed collecting ephemera as excavating the waste paper of the recent past. Unlike previous collectors, Johnson collected everything.
He wanted to make “a little museum of common printed things, to illustrate at one and the same time the historical development of our social life and the development of printing”.
Johnson succeeded spectacularly but failed to deliver a ‘little museum’ – he assembled about 1.5 million items, divided into 680 subject headings. It is held at the Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford.
The term came into use in the 20th century but the material collected is often older
But while the term printed ephemera came into use in the 20th century, it refers to material produced from the 18th century onward.
The great collections like that of John Johnson collection was chiefly made up not of contemporary material but of ‘old material’ with the aim of preserving a record of the past made up chiefly of mainly printed, mainly single sided material.
At the end of 2013, Wikipedia refers to the defining characteristics ephemera as: being transitory; and written or printed. It updates the examples of ephemera with a reference to zines.
It also considers the collection and management of video ephemera.
Marbled paper has been used for centuries in bookbinding, generally as endpapers—front and back—sometimes as outside decorative covers.
It is made by floating pigments upon a mucilaginous “size”, arranging the chosen colors as desired using toothed combs and other tools, then laying a sheet of paper or fabric onto the floating pattern to pick it up. It is a graphic printmaking process really—no two prints are exactly alike.
In 1881, C. W. Woolnough described marbling as “this pretty, mysterious art.” He also said, “This process is not very easy to describe, and yet to anyone beholding it for the first time it appears extremely simple and easy to perform, yet the difficulties are many, and the longer one practices it, the more he becomes convinced that there is ample room for fresh discoveries and more interesting results than any that have yet been accomplished.”
In recent decades, modern marblers have indeed done wonderfully interesting things with the process, ranging from beautifully crafted classic designs to representational images and scenes . . . fish, flowers, landscapes, all sorts of things. An article I wrote for the August 1978 issue of American Artist magazine (oftentimes available on eBay) details the basic process, and shows a few examples.
The naming of marbled paper designs is complex and confusing. Names have been assigned over the past two or three centuries variously in various places. Many patterns are commonly known by several different names.