Peter E Charuk - Kustom Kars

Exhibition: 10 September to 11 October, 2003

Peter E Charuk

I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals. I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.

Roland Barthes

The images in this exhibition take Barthes' idea of a car as a purely magical object, and pursue it through the medium of photography.

The photographs in Kustom Kars form a sub-set of Charuk's ongoing research into Men's Work. They explore the male dominated sub-culture of the car-customising scene. There is a whole language within this sub-culture and fierce debates about how you categorise a car and how it was customised hot-rods, street car, chopped, channelled, frenched, and so on.

Charuk has been documenting customised cars in the street and at major car shows in Australia since the 1970's. The Kustom Kar images focus on the car and its details, editing out the backgrounds so that there is no interference in the presentation of the "magical object". The car becomes a form for personal expression, the owner taking what the manufacturer gives and changing it to suit their style and taste. Once a decision is made to customise a great deal of time and money is spent making the many changes, it then becomes a Kustom Kar. These "magical objects" form the basis of moving sculptures with flashy chrome, customised bodywork, re-worked engines and engineering, and the most outrageous or subtle paint work imaginable.

This is Charuk's second exhibition at Stills Gallery. His previous work, Men's Work (lll): Iron Hans shown at Stills in 2000 employed vivid colours and adventurous digital imagery to explore questions about men's attitudes towards work and how it continues to provide a substantial definition of identity. Peter Charuk is Senior Lecturer at the School of Contemporary/Fine Arts at University of Western Sydney. He has received many awards for his digital and interactive artwork and has been exhibited and published widely.