Brick Wall with Sign, ‘Smoking Strictly Prohibited’ 1977
Brick Wall with Sign, ‘Smoking Strictly Prohibited’
Dimensions (H x W x D)
19.5 x 29.4 cm
Donated by John McHutchison, 2008
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection
In 2008, painter and photographer John McHutchison generously donated a collection of his photographic works to the City of Melbourne. These mainly black-and-white photographs were taken between 1976 and 1983 and largely document our city’s streets and public scenes during that period. Taken in 1977, this photograph documents an unlikely sign for the period, in Niagara Lane, in the city centre.
While at first glance the photographs appear candid windows onto public tableaux, they soon reveal more complex narratives, with the compositions drawing out an often-playful, always-compelling dynamic between the subject and setting. If you look through these photographs, you will observe that while many turn on an amusing visual play, it is a restless humour that underwrites them, both whimsical and macabre. For example, ‘Wall Sign, E. Dark & Co. Mossberg for Accuracy’ shows the two rifles on the wall sign trained deadly accurate on windows of the adjoining office building, its occupants presumably blissfully unaware. Yet ‘Men at Hoarding Windows’, where passing gents nonchalantly view the building works behind, is nothing if not reminiscent of a public pissoir or a peep show. The prosaic, purely descriptive titles give little away; these photographs rely on visual language to deliver their punchline.