Jennifer Johnson, who received her PhD from History of Art at Oxford in 2014, has just published a book with Bloomsbury based on her doctoral thesis. The book, Georges Rouault and Material Imagining, is a reappraisal of the work of an artist who has tended to dwell on the margins of modernist art history. Often described as a difficult and dark painter, Johnson shows us that Georges Rouault's oeuvre is in fact deeply experimental. Images of the circus emerge from a plethora of chaotic marks, while numerous landscapes appear as if ossified in thick paint. Georges Rouault and Material Imagining approaches Rouault in relation to contemporary theories about making and material, examining how he constructs a 'material consciousness' that departs from other modern painters. Rouault's work explodes the genre of painting, drawing upon the residue of Gustave Moreau's symbolism, the extremities of Fauvism, and the radical theatrical experiments of Alfred Jarry. The repetitions and re-workings at the heart of Rouault's process defy conventional chronological treatment, and place the emphasis upon the coming-into-being of the work of art. Ultimately, the process of making is revealed as both a search for understanding and a response to the problematic world of the twentieth century. Georges Rouault and Material Imagining therefore offers an innovative critical approach to the various questions raised by this difficult modernist.
Geoffrey Batchen’s book, Apparitions: Photography and Dissemination (Power Publications and NAMU, 2020), has been awarded the ‘best book’ prize for 2020 by the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand. The judges described the book as follows:
An original, convincing and extensively researched book that may change the discipline’s understanding (in art history / photography history / critical theory / museum curating) of the complex processes involved in some of the earliest forms of commercial photography. This path-breaking study challenges photography history’s existing narrative paradigm that “privileges the singular photograph” over “the reproducible photographic image”. Batchen traces the genesis of certain early portrait daguerreotypes and their ‘transfiguration’ through engraving and lithographic printing, producing ‘ghost’ images that necessitate revaluations of both vintage photographs and their reproductions. Judiciously illustrated and with a contemporary feel, this book is constructed as a visual artefact of 2019.