What has been your favourite cover of Manuscript to date? I’m personally fond of our 8th issue with Noah Taylor – in the striking portrait, photographer Paul Scala captures something special about the actor, musician and artist’s character, an earnest vulnerability, and he looks so very handsome. But then our creative director Jolyon Mason really loves those in which we’ve taken more artistic license, like with the graffiti that obfuscates music producer Stephen Pavlovic’s face for the cover of our 3rd issue, or the great splash of water through which we see designer Dion Lee on our 9th issue.
As any magazine editor will attest, choosing a cover is probably the hardest part of the production process. It defines not only what you as a publication stand for, but also your popularity on the newsstand. It is, too, a platform for creative expression – throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, some of the greatest artworks have been those that appeared on the covers of magazines. And when I look retrospectively at the covers of this magazine that line the walls of our office, what most impresses me is that we’ve featured, in my opinion, some of the world’s most creatively excellent men – artists, designers, musicians, actors, dancers – and, for the most part, they’ve all been Australian. As a portfolio of the talent we as a nation are capable of producing, it’s a hell of a testament.
Christian Thompson, the artist that graces this issue’s cover, is certainly part of that canon. Mr Thompson’s practice – photography, video and performance – frequently takes the form of characters in various forms of dress or decoration; they are, in essence, a still record of form imbued with the multiple layers of cultural, historical and social meanings invoked by the artist. His work is arresting for its negation of the self, the resultant artworks an exploration of identity, sexuality, gender and race, playing on fashion’s appropriation of indigenous tropes as a way of offering new meanings.
I interviewed Mr Thompson when he returned to Sydney from the United Kingdom – where he picked up a doctorate degree at Oxford University, having been the first Indigenous Australian fellow at the historic institution in its 900-year history – as one of twelve artists to take residency with legendary performance artist Marina Abramovic, organized by Kaldor Public Art Projects. And despite being based abroad for the past few years, the artist is set to mount a number of exhibitions locally later this year, imbuing our cultural landscape with the inherent richness of his work.
There’s certainly a lot on that calendar, what with the David Bowie is exhibition opening at the Australian Centre for Moving Image (our resident film editor Huw Walmsley-Evans examines Mr Bowie’s contribution to cinema, from page 32), and retrospective exhibitions of new media artists Rosemary Laing and Daniel Crooks at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Gallery of Modern Art, respectively (Alison Kubler traces the artists’ divergent careers, from page 38).
But it’s not just the art world that’s brimming with exciting newness. With this new issue of the magazine comes a new season in fashion, the core of what we document at Manuscript. Like Mr Thompson’s work, fashion has the ability to transform, with the clothes we wear helping to construct our identity, and that much is evident in the features in this issue. Hung Tran, a new (and exceedingly talented) writer to our pages, observes the way in which contemporary designers – Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, Jonathan Anderson and Rick Owens included – are creating a revolutionary shift in the men’s fashion landscape that’s blurring traditional notions of sexuality and gender (page 58). And in a lengthy portfolio, photographer Jordan Graham and creative director Jolyon Mason present our favourite looks of the fall 2015 season (from page 80), from the aforementioned poetic romanticism of Mr Michele’s debut collection for the house, to Kris Van Assche’s thwarting of established dress codes at Dior Homme.
Until next time–
Mitchell Oakley Smith
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher
Issue XII of Manuscript magazine is on newsstands 06 August 2015.