Re-Generations

Photography Review: Re-Generations

Photo Access.

Was scheduled to run until 4 April, but the gallery has been closed today because of the imposed COVID-19 restrictions. Photo Access is working on creating an online version of the exhibition but it will take a little while for them to get it up and running.

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.

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