by Neometro
 

David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me

Arts & Events - by Open Journal
  • 'Strangers in the Night' 1978, collage of cut paper, photocopy, mulberry paper

Years in the making, the NGV presents the largest ever retrospective of the compelling and often confessional work of Australian artist, designer and gay activist David McDiarmid.

A prolific artist and graphic designer, a prominent political activist, a pioneer of Australia’s gay liberation movement in the early 1970s and artistic director of the Sydney Mardi Gras in the 1980s, David McDiarmid (1952-1995) was one of Australia’s most unique and prolific characters.

In both his work and his life, McDiarmid’s world was a heady melting pot of  art, colour, fashion, music, sex, gay rights and identity politics. Once being diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, his art and energies turned to creating a dialogue around AIDS and the life of its sufferers, for which he is best known internationally.

McDiarmid first settled in Melbourne, where he studied film, illustration, art and history at what is now RMIT. Moving to Sydney in 1972, he helped found Sydney Gay Liberation and at a peaceful protest in front of ABC’s Headquarters that year, became the first person arrested at a gay rights protest in Australia.

Moving back to Sydney, McDiarmid had his first solo shows in 1976 and 1977, as well as designing the poster for the city’s 4th National Homosexual Conference in 1978 before moving to New York. Here, he fell for the exuberance and excess of the city’s underground nightclub culture, becoming an early patron of the infamous and celebrated New York club venue Paradise Garage. The sites, colour and ubiquitous mirror balls of this nightlife provided inspiration for some of his most recognisable works, including utilising reflective holographic material to create his wildly vibrant disco kwilts.

David-McDiarmid-Discard

‘Discard After Use’ 1990, collage of self-adhesive holographic film on enamel paint on plywood

Bringing together more than 200 works, When This You See Remember Me includes the artist’s early gay liberation work; New York graffiti and disco quilts; fashion collaborations with Linda Jackson; his pioneering digital series Rainbow aphorisms and Gothic aphorisms; material he produced as Sydney Mardi Gras Artistic Director; posters created for the AIDS Council of NSW; and, his significant and highly influential international campaigns developed in the context of AIDS, sexual politics and safe sex in the 1990s.

The NGV writes that McDiarmid’s work “inspires through its courage, poetry, exuberance and cultural impact. At once kaleidoscopic, celebratory and darkly humorous in tone, the artist’s idiosyncratic, highly personal and, at times, confessional work highlights the redefinition and deconstruction of identities – “from camp to gay to queer” – drawing on the experiences of a life intensely lived in Melbourne, Sydney and New York.”

Originally planned to to coincide with what would have been McDiarmid’s 60th birthday, the exhibition has been in the works since 2012 and now coincides with Melbourne hosting the 20th International AIDS Conference in July 2014.

David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me
Until 31 August 2014
NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne.
www.ngv.vic.gov.au

David-McDiarmid

David McDiarmid photographed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1995 (William Yang)

By Matt Hurst

Image captions

David McDiarmid
Strangers in the night 1978
Collage of cut coloured paper and photocopy on mulberry paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, proposed acquisition

David McDiarmid
I want a future that lives up to my past
From the Rainbow aphorisms series 1994, printed 2014
Computer generated colour inkjet prints
Collection of the McDiarmid Estate, Sydney

David McDiarmid
Q
From the Rainbow aphorisms series 1994, printed 2014
Computer generated colour inkjet prints
Collection of the McDiarmid Estate, Sydney

David McDiarmid
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, poster 1989–90
Colour photo-offset lithograph
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Gift of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Limited, 1995

David McDiarmid
Hand and heart 1984
Synthetic polymer paint on cotton
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Gift of the Estate of the late David McDiarmid, 1998

David McDiarmid
Discard after use 1990
From the Kiss of light series 1990–92
Collage of self-adhesive holographic film on enamel paint on plywood
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift from the Estate of David McDiarmid, 1998

All images reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate.

William Yang
Artist David McDiarmid photographed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales adjacent to his giant artwork on the gallery’s facade for Perspecta May, 1995. Reproduced with permission of William Yang.

 

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