Difficult Pleasures 2008 Uplands Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Tony Schwensen
Difficult Pleasures
26 June 2008 - 19 July 2008

The last three months of 2007 I spent in Paris, at the Power Studio at the
Cité Internationale des Arts. My original intention for this residency had
been to have a European vacation, eat a lot of quality bread, drink a lot of
low quality wine and look at Millet's at the Musée d'Orsay. Before leaving
Sydney though, I became somewhat obsessed with John Power's paintings, which
always struck me as a poor melange of early twentieth century avant garde
practice. For me the most revealing of all of his works is a self-portrait
in a beret, where he looks a bit like James Joyce, which reeked of
Francophilia. The work functioned as a portal to a time when Paris was the
centre of global artistic endeavours and is indicative of the romanticism
that absorbed Power.

I was listening to the remastered Iggy and The Stooges Raw Power and began
to think of remaking Power's work as Iggy and remaking Raw Power as John
Power as my project in Paris.
However, on arriving in Paris this all slipped away somewhat. Walking
around it became apparent how right Walter Benjamin had been. Paris is a
city of the nineteenth century, frozen into a vitrine like existence,
hawking its past as its present sits in precarious balance between the
future Sakorzy is attempting to drive and the realities of life in the

A colleague from Wales had completed a residency in Sydney and had commented
to me about Brett Whiteley as being a perfect example of the Australian
condition, vaunted for his overseas odysseys, which in reality do not amount
to much, and descending into deluded mediocrity in his later years.
This forced me to reconsider Whiteley who I had ignored since turning 15,
apart from nursing a desire to take a chainsaw to his matchstick sculptures
outside the AGNSW. I returned to the Whiteley studio, looked at the works at
the AGNSW and watched a documentary on Whiteley produced by the ABC, which
is titled Difficult Pleasures , and is indeed a difficult pleasure to sit
through, and bought and wore a wig to try to understand what it meant to be
Whiteley a bit better.

Walking along the Seine's banks I began to understand that ultimately there
is not much separating Power and Whiteley. An unbridled romanticism drips
from both of them, redolent of a vague desire for something and somewhere

I then proceeded to make a series of actions over the next 8 months that
culminate and are collected together in this exhibition.

Tony Schwensen
 July 2008