Photography Review: Burnout

Imogen Wall, Belconnen Community Gallery

Was scheduled to run until 3 April, but the gallery has been closed because of the imposed COVID-19 restrictions. Not the same, but next best, Wall’s images can be viewed online at http://www.magentadreams.site/

This vibrantly colourful exhibition is in the modest light-filled gallery space inside Belconnen Community Service. Often using bright colours in my own photography, I was immediately drawn in. Studying the works and starting to consider what they were saying to me only added to my enjoyment of the show.

Imogen Wall is a long-term Belconnen resident who creates in many mediums in addition to photography. Song, dance, poetry, collage, painting and drawing are also part of her explorations. She exhibited at Belconnen Community Gallery in 2018 (‘Journeys’ for Reconciliation Week) and 2009 (‘Dreamscapes’) and has designed many sets for local theatre. She is currently completing a multi-disciplinary Master’s degree at ANU.

Small - Skyline II © Imogen Wall

Skyline II © Imogen Wall

The concept for this show started with the rather unglamorous story of a stolen car dumped at suburban McKellar oval and then incinerated. Before the car’s remains were towed away, Wall captured a series of photographs of the colours and textures that had emerged during the burning. She felt these represented a sort of beauty rising out of the destructive act, salvaging something of what the car had been. In many ways she was responding to a personal feeling of burnout.

Small - Murano III © Imogen WalI

Murano III © Imogen Wall

By happy chance, a neighbour, Jack Crittle, had photographed the car before it was burnt, providing a ‘before/after’ narrative anchor for the exhibition’s themes of burnout and resurrection. Since then, our summer bushfires have given the show – with its focus on the miracle of regeneration that can appear after burning – an additional resonance.

Small - Pintara © Imogen Wall

Pintara © Imogen Wall

Words on promotional material for the show provide an excellent starting point for our response to what we see: Beauty can rise from ashes just as hearts can regenerate after burnout. The exhibition handout tells us “The burnt car was an alien presence, sparking conversation among locals walking their dogs, making it a portal between worlds of crime and civility. In the summer sunsets the burnt duco was iridescent. Exotic colours and textures emerged from paint and metal alchemically transformed by burning – rusted, charred and oxidised – the patterns evoking points of transition (sunrises, shorelines) and strange worlds (industrial dystopias, gleaming estuaries). This beauty, rising mysteriously from destruction suggests the potential for life that is latent in burnout.”

Small - Terra © Imogen Wall

Terra © Imogen Wall

Wall considers the heart to be central to our physical and spiritual being, the seat of life, emotion and spirit. That has long been a focus in her work. She likes to play with interactions between conceptual, intuitive, and emotive layers, aiming to evoke a feeling or mood and capture that passage of time which enables us to move beyond the present.

Small - Titan II © Imogen Wall

Titan II © Imogen Wall

Burnout brings together a stimulating variety of artistic reflections on that title’s many aspects of meaning: photographs, mixed media paintings and a range of sculptural pieces made from car parts, animal skin and found objects. The photographic works are the central core, but the additional artworks by Fabio Fabbo and Rena Swamy express a dynamism and boldness, add to and help bind the entire show together. The depth of colour and directness of statement throughout is resurrecting. It renews our spirits.

Small - Titan IV © Imogen Wall

Titan IV © Imogen Wall

Canberra film expert, Andrew Pike, was to have added even more, lending further coherence to this conceptually harmonised show – by speaking at the cancelled opening, on post-traumatic growth.

Whilst not the same as visiting the exhibition in the gallery to see the photos printed on metal (thus enhancing the effect), as a next best option Wall’s images can be viewed online at http://www.magentadreams.site/




Photography Review: Re-Generations

Photo Access.

Was scheduled to run until 4 April, but the gallery had to be closed because of the imposed COVID-19 restrictions. Photo Access has now created an online version of the exhibition which can be seen at http://www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au/re-generations until 16 May 2020.

Loud & Luminous is an annual celebration of Australian women photographers. It includes a symposium, this exhibition, the launch of the Loud & Luminous book for 2020 and artist talks.

Re-Generations, curated by Canberra’s Hilary Wardhaugh, features five contemporary female artist photographers. It is about experiences of personal growth and change. It exposes inherited trauma, family relationships and the stories to be learned from inter-generational memories. It reveals some subtle shades of meaning relating to the possibilities of female lives today.

Addressing issues relating to women’s opportunities for personal growth and to the traumas associated with domestic violence through quality photographic art adds greatly to the messages to which we all must respond. Like many women before them, these photographers have recognised a deep responsibility to influence the conversation and make impact. All of us, but particularly men, must take note.

Helga Salwe tells us that time spent in the mountains and deserts of Morocco during a period of radical change in her personal life allowed her painful feelings to emerge and heal. We are blessed to be able to view her fine monochrome prints and reflect on how we might have felt in the same place with similar feelings. Her image Sandstorm particularly speaks to me, telling about a person’s life in this desert place. Equally, Home of the Earth is remarkable for how the depicted home seemingly merges into the earth around it.Sandstorm in the Sahara DesertHelga Salwe, Sandstorm, 2019, archival pigment ink on portfolio rag, 30x 42cm

Tamara Whyte, an indigenous artist from far North Queensland, has contributed three short documentary video works, extending her photographic and video practice. They focus on the survival of Aboriginal people; their resilience and resistance whilst adapting to change. Buffalo Horns with its insistent but gentle tap, tap, tap sound is at once both mesmerising and educational.

Tamara Whyte, Still from Bonescape, 2020, single channel digital video, 16.5 seconds

Tamara Whyte, Bonescape, 2020, single channel digital video, 16.5 seconds

Suellen Cook describes herself as “a photographer of the imagination” who likes “to tell stories through images that mysteriously bubble into my consciousness”. Her stunning conceptual images shown here reveal emotions she has experienced during her life journey, when adversity or life-changing events have initially knocked her down. Reading the words accompanying each print we can follow how Cook responded, rose from the ashes and made her choices to become more resilient and stronger. Whilst the set of powerful prints together tells a fuller story, each large print successfully stands on its own.

Suellen Cook, THE PHOENIX, 2020, photographic inkjet print, 75 x 75cm

Suellen Cook, THE PHOENIX, 2020, photographic inkjet print, 75 x 75cm

Elise Searson, who works as a photojournalist in Batemans Bay, also draws on her personal narrative, sharing with us some of her own intense experience of motherhood. In the exhibition catalogue, she tells us that becoming a mother makes one imagine their past and, especially, how we all begin life; and that it can trigger questions because of generational trauma. The words written directly on the gallery wall to accompany her image After Innocence made me smile as well as think.

Elise Searson, Mother One, 2020, multimedia digital scan and inkjet print, 61cm x 91cm

Elise Searson, Mother One, 2020, multimedia digital scan and inkjet print, 61cm x 91cm

Tricia King’s contribution explores the importance of memories as a place where identity and meaning can be rediscovered and shared. Each piece is a pair of closely associated portraits of an older woman living in aged care facilities, with the two images used to offset one another. On the left of each is an early portrait of the woman, on the right a new portrait. Having myself created a memory book of words and family images when my mother went into aged care, these works reminded me again how photographs enable an older person to share memories with others, particularly younger family. King’s juxtapositions of the now and then in these women’s lives are fabulous. The story of Margerie is especially well portrayed.

Tricia King, The Photographs of Home; Margerie, 2019, photographic inkjet print, 80 x 40cm                       Tricia King, The Photographs of Home; Margerie, 2019,                                   photographic inkjet print, 80 x 40cm

This excellent exhibition is a credit to all involved.

This review was also published in the Canberra Times and on the Canberra Critics Circle’s blog at https://ccc-canberracriticscircle.blogspot.com/2020/03/national-photographic-portrait-prize.html , both on  on 25 March 2020.


National Photographic Portrait Prize 2020

Photography Review

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2020

National Portrait Gallery. Until 10 May

(If the NPG closes because of the COVID-19 virus restrictions, all the finalists can be seen online at https://www.portrait.gov.au/nppp-images.php?advanced=yes&year=&category=finalists&custom=)

The National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition is selected from a national field of entries, reflecting the distinctive vision of Australia’s amateur and professional photographers and the unique nature of their subjects.

What constitutes a portrait is a question that has been discussed often; with diverse views being expressed. For me, these words come reasonably close “A portrait is an artwork that has been created about a person or persons which tells us something about them.” That doesn’t mean a portrait has to look like or clearly show the person’s face. For me, revealing information about the person is the key element.

48 entries were shortlisted for 2020. There are two works that are collaborations between two artists. Two artists each achieved two shortlisted works. And five of the works are by Canberrans:

Oxygen Thief © Lori Cicchini

Oxygen Thief, by Lori Ciccini, stands out for two reasons. It is framed differently to the other works (artistically) and is not about a named person but portrays “the contemporary human”. Arguably, it tells us more about the photographer herself. Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary, created image that made this viewer think.

Prime Minister © Mike Bowers

Mike Bowers is Photographer-at-Large for Guardian Australia and also host of Talking Pictures on ABC TV. His image, Prime Minister, taken during a parliamentary vote, shows the PM sitting alone and looking uncertain, whilst other MPs stand in the background.

Brothers © Steven Lloyd

Brothers, by Steven Lloyd, was captured when two brothers re-united at a family gathering. Lloyd has succeeded in showing the joyous emotions of the occasion, as well as revealing the physical likenesses shared by Nik and Rouli.

Matilda (Ngambri-Ngunnawal) © Brenda L Croft

Brenda L Croft presents us with Matilda, a strong portrait of Canberran and Ngambri/ Ngunnawal Elder, Aunty Matilda House. It is best viewed from a distance. Incidentally, fully one third of the shortlisted works are portraits of people with indigenous heritage, not all having high public profiles.

Copyright © Charles Tambiah (All rights reserved - Worldwide).

Jarrah, by Charles Tambiah, was a standout for me. It is about a mate and reveals numerous things about him; his chosen clothing, vehicle and dog immediately establish an Aussie context for us. The inclusion of a footy adds to our knowledge.

Willie ‘Bomba’ King © Jason McNamara

Amongst the works by non-Canberrans, I particularly enjoyed Willie ‘Bomba’ King, by Jason McNamara. As with Tambiah’s work, this quickly reveals much about the person portrayed, whilst also inviting us to learn more.

Writing on the Wall, 2019 © Dr Christian Thompson AO

Dr Christian Thompson’s Writing on the Wall is an elaborate and stunning self-portrait referencing the collective anxiety posed by climate change. Its vivid colours immediately attract attention.

1967 © Dave Laslett

1967, by Dave Laslett, invites us to consider what, if anything, has changed since the historic 1967 Referendum when we voted overwhelmingly to include Aboriginals in the Census.

One of the NPPP 2020 judges, Nici Cumpston, has described the task. With Aboriginal heritage herself, Cumpston has said it was refreshing to see so many images of and by Aboriginal people among this year’s finalists. “Importantly, the NPPP is a democratic view of our society at this particular time in history, and the final exhibition tours nationally, which is a great gift for the nation.” Perhaps that is a partial answer to Laslett’s question.

There are other images of great interest for a variety of reasons, such as their storytelling, dramatic effects, background choices, and great subjects. It is most interesting to compare Hugh Stewart’s Eileen Kramer is a dancer (which was highly commended) with the painting Elizabeth – winner of the Darling Portrait Prize – on display in the adjoining gallery space.

Eileen Kramer is a Dancer © Hugh Stewart

Eileen Kramer is a dancer © Hugh Stewart

Another fine work, The Mahi-Mahi by Ron Palmer, was announced as the prize winner, despite a certain virus derailing the planned gala announcement event.

The Mahi-Mahi © Rob Palmer

This review was also published in the Canberra Times and on the Canberra Critics Circle’s blog at https://ccc-canberracriticscircle.blogspot.com/2020/03/national-photographic-portrait-prize.html , both on  on 23 March 2020.


The Mullins Legacy (or Benefits from APS Membership)

My latest contribution to the Australian Photographic Society pages in Australian Photography magazine appears in the April 2020 issue under the title The Mullins Legacy. Here it is as published:


And here it is as submitted:

Benefits from APS Membership

Twelve months ago, I wrote a piece for this page about the then new Australian Conceptual Photography Prize (ACPP). It is happening again and has had a small, but significant, name change. It is now known as the Mullins Australian Conceptual Prize (MACPP). This is because a significant bequest bearing the Mullins name has now been directed into the Prize.

During 2009, Barbara Mullins provided the APS with a bequest in memory of her husband, the late Doug Mullins, President of the Society 1964-1966. This bequest was part of the proceeds from the sale of Mullins Gallery, the former headquarters of the South Australian Photographic Federation of which Doug was Patron.

Initially, the bequest was used to support the publication of two APS books of members’ work. In 2011 the first edition of APS Gallery was published. In 2012, when the APS celebrated its 50th anniversary, a second book was published. Since that time the balance of the bequest has grown considerably through interest earned.

Seeking to ensure the long-term future of the ACPP, last year the Society approached the Mullins family with a proposal that would satisfy the intent of honouring both Doug’s and Barbara’s significant contributions to the APS. There was much synergy in the proposal with the style of Doug’s exhibition photography in the Prize, and in Doug and Barbara’s generous support of the arts and the Art Gallery of SA.

In early December 2019, approval was received to apply the balance of the bequest funds to the Prize. The Society has, therefore, retitled the prize as the Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography prize (MACPP) and it will be a permanent reminder of Barbara and Doug Mullins.

So, by entering the MACPP you would, in effect, be paying a tribute to Doug and Barbara and all they did for photography during their lives. In addition, you might have your work selected as a finalist for exhibition at Magnet Gallery in Docklands, Melbourne. You might even win the major prize of $10,000 or another prize.

Even if you are not one of the entrants to make the short list, the challenge of entering competitions like this can inspire us and lead to significant improvements in our imagery. Thinking about what we want to say through our images and writing a 100 words description of our concepts all helps us to develop and advance with our photography.

You can still enter the 2020 MACPP. Please log onto the APS Website www.a-p-s.org.au and follow the links to the Prize. Or go direct to the Prize competition portal at https://apsacpp.myphotoclub.com.au/. You’ll need to hurry though as entries close at 11 PM AEST on 1 May 2020.

The MACPP is just one of numerous things the APS offers to assist its members to create better images. There are other competitions, folios that allow members to share their work with other members and learn from each other, the opportunity to represent Australia in exhibitions such as the 2020 FIAP Nature Biennial, and the opportunity to create your own online image gallery. Members can also subscribe to magazines from Yaffa Publishing (such as this one) for discounted rates.

When the son becomes a father by Anne Pappalardo

When the son becomes a father – by Anne Pappalardo – a winner in the 2019 ACPP.