Perfect (20/20) Vision in the year 2020

Photography Review

Thirteen Artists: Perfect (20/20) Vision in the year 2020

Gallery of Small Things: Until 6 September 2020

Also online at https://www.galleryofsmallthings.com/photoaccess-products and www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au

The Gallery of Small Things (GOST) is the tiniest gallery in Canberra. Visitors usually see a variety of artworks in a space less than 6 metres square which, in the 1960s, was an outside laundry!

GOST conducts an annual group show showcasing a different visual arts sector. This year it is photography and the exhibition has been worked up in collaboration with Photo Access which invited proposals responding to the theme of 20/20 vision with artworks 20 x 20 cm in size, in the year 2020. Applications were assessed by a panel, comprised of GOST and PhotoAccess staff.

In total, the thirteen selected artists created 50 small works, which makes for a rather crowded gallery – despite a few not being displayed in it. Gallery owner and operator, Anne Masters, had a challenging choice to make when curating this show.

Rowena Yates has four images framed in deep set black boxes. There is much to see in each of these works if we spend adequate time looking into them. Yates says “This series explores the political and environmental consequences of climate change for farming families of the Ungarie district … and seeks to complicate stereotyping of primary producers as stoic ‘battlers’, particularly as these play out in popular constructions of national identity …’.

Brian MacAlister has created five works titled ‘not known to self’. In each work there are fascinating juxtapositions. He has used a combination of digital photography and photographic collage to give these works a contemporary edge.

Not known to self #2, inkjet prints, combination of digital photography and photographic collage © Brian MacAlister

Yvette Perine has created I-Type Polaroids documenting bushfire smoke, affected land, and regrowth. Appropriately, they are displayed close to Ian Skinner’s images of the bushfire aftermath at Cadgee. I was pleased to see a print of an image that was a finalist for Skinner in the recent Mullins Australian Conceptual Photography Prize – albeit a small cropped version.

Tessa Ivison has created lovely digital images on glass in a series titled “Liminal landscapes”, reflecting her view that 2020 has been a liminal year of despair and hope.

Liminal Landscapes – Sonder, digital image on glass © Tessa Iveson

Jason McDonald’s contribution is three exquisite works in solid oak box frames. The subject matter first seen is wildflowers, but closer inspection reveals small creatures, such as geckos, lizards, frogs, and hoverflies, among the flowers.

Bluebells, Golden Weather Grass, Lizards & Grass Hoppers, photograph on cotton rag paper, solid oak box frame with Ultra Vue glass © Jason McDonald

Sammy Hawker contributes some wonderful art with a set of Multigrade FB prints, made from 120 film developed with XTol and ocean water collected on site at Broulee. They each show great textures and details. I loved “Broulee detail 1”.

Thomas Edmondson is showing works created using medium format colour negative film. They show us varied observed urban subjects within 100km of his home.

Emily Bull pays homage to the acclaimed American photographer Vivian Maier’s self-portraits, with two inkjet prints reflecting a search for inner clarity.

Reflection (after Vivian Maier), 2020, Inkjet on cotton rag, framed © Emily Bull

David Lindesay’s Polaroid titled “Corrupted Touch” very much conveys a sense of touch despite his having altered and deformed his image by applying heat to the film.

Corrupted Touch, 2020, Polaroids, © David Lindsey

Sari Sutton has a series of framed digital inkjet prints. One of them “Orbital (brain)storm” is a great representation of what my brain must be like during times when my thoughts are all over the place.

Blankistan, framed digital Inkjet print on fine art cotton rag paper © Sari Sutton

Damien Laing contributes five digital prints of flying foxes. They are amusingly displayed directly above Sinead Alison’s five images documenting cats through windows. She is ‘inspired by Lee Friedlander’s ‘Mannequin’ and Herbert List’s ‘Monograph’. This body of work has allowed her to explore the light and play with reflection in all conditions … to capture a unique composition of these subjects in a surrealist yet documentary manner.

The cat pondered if it was inside or outside, May 2020, 35mm film negative hand developed and hand printed on Pearl Lustre Photo paper, crafted wooden glass frame  © Sinead Allison

This review was also published on 29 August 2020 by the Canberra Times (initially under Ron Cerabona’s name but later corrected to mine): https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6891864/small-visions-of-insight-expose-the-big-picture/

and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog: https://ccc-canberracriticscircle.blogspot.com/2020/08/perfect-2020-vision-in-year-2020.html

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Split, Abberation and Ghost Light

Photomedia Review

Three Artists: Split, Abberation and Ghost Light

Photo Access: Until 29 August 2020

Also online at http://www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au

Staying at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, Chris Bowes turned his attention to live streams from CCTV cameras. Using footage sourced from a surveillance device in New York’s Times Square, he created Split, an imagined narrative.

It is a virtual certainty that those of us who have visited Times Square in New York City have seen the Naked Cowboy, one of many colourful characters who frequent the area daily entertaining the cheering crowds. I saw him in 2013. Bowes shows him walking the empty streets at the same time each day, always the same moves. He is stuck in a loop, playing guitar for pigeons, seemingly oblivious to the changed world – with no crowds of tourists smiling, laughing, capturing photos. He stills wears little – white cowboy hat and boots, and white briefs with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity. And now a white face mask! The street is strangely empty beneath the billboards, in its own lockdown but revealing all the lines of road markings. Is the cowboy performing for us?

The Cowboy, 2020, Still from Split video installation
© Chris Bowes

​Jacinta Giles’ work, Abberation, also emerged during lockdown’s departure from normal. It came about partly as a result of consuming large amounts of media broadcasts about the coronavirus, despite her previously being an avid non-watcher.

Giles’ process explores how we store and recollect memories. She recorded many broadcasts then applied “memory-based processes” to create images and, for the moving image part, montaged many of them together. A photo of blue tape marking a spot for social distancing in a supermarket is used throughout as a means of holding the montage.

Aberration 1, 2020, Still from video installation
© Jacinta Giles

She also shows us four large stand-alone images, printed on an adhesive polyester fabric which can be removed and reused multiple times without any alteration or damage to the surface.

Left to Right: Concealed, Evidence, Spectre, Teetering, 2020,
photographic archival pigment prints, each 84.1 cm x 118.9 cm
© Jacinta Giles

Our third exhibitor is Victoria Wareham. She contributes Ghost Light, a two-channel video installation. Wareham and Giles have worked alongside each other for the past three years. In a recorded conversation between them on the Photo Access website, we hear them agree there are synergies in the way they approach the screen-based image as a trace.

Ghost Light is a two-channel, screen-based work that uses digitally altered 16mm film footage to highlight the relationship between touch and the screen-based image. Much of the time, we flick through screen images by swiping and scrolling, only lingering over a few. This work attempts to draw us in and communicate with us as images move across our screens.

The catalogue tells us that, for Wareham, screens are like ghosts. “We can manifest them, they are transparent, ephemeral, and surround us in a passive and unknowing way. We can choose to acknowledge and become aware of them by activating the images that lie dormant behind their glassy surfaces.” 

​Wareham’s own audio introduction to her work on the website is well worth listening to. She notes that, over the past few months, most of us have been living through our screens. She suggests there is a screen space just slightly out of time from our world. She is aware of that as an invisible zone between our world and the image world, seeing the screen-based image as a type of ghost. She seeks to bring the ghosts to the surface and encourage them to reach out and touch back. She digitally applied a blue overlay to elevate and draw attention to the screen itself, to highlight its presence as an invisible barrier and a forgotten horizon between the viewer and the screen-based image.

Ghost Light, 2019, Still from two-channel video installation
© Victoria Wareham

This review was also published on 15 August 2020 by the Canberra Times: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6862525/imagined-narratives-and-ghostly-zones/ and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog: https://ccc-canberracriticscircle.blogspot.com/2020/08/split-abberation-and-ghost-light.html

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Where I Stand

Photography Review

Six Artists: Where I Stand

Exhibition Avenue, Australian National University, 31 October 2020

Exhibition Avenue is an exciting new initiative of Kambri at ANU, intended to provide an ever-changing ‘walk of art’ featuring indigenous artists, streets artists and emerging artists.

This initial, visually stunning exhibition, Where I Stand, is a selection from six iconic Australian photographers – Michael Cook, Dr. Judith Nangala Crispin, Sarah Ducker, Murray Fredericks, Aunty Barbara McGrady, and Michael Jalaru Torres. The images can be viewed at any time as they are lit throughout the night.

Each artist (most of them indigenous) shows four huge prints on the sides of steel cubes, each strengthened internally with water tanks. Twenty-four visual tales, each captured simply but powerfully, in single frames, connecting us to people, place and culture.

Cook is an award-winning photographer driven by a desire to explore issues of identity; his own life affected by adoption. He brings together the historical with the imaginary, and the political with the personal – referencing the Stolen Generation and his own adoption. We are shown images of an Aboriginal mother always alone, her baby absent, to interpret for ourselves. I appreciated the images for themselves, but also for the challenge of the messages in them.

© Michael Cook

Crispin is a local, Wamboin-based, visual artist. Her work includes themes of displacement and identity loss, a reflection on her own lost Aboriginal ancestry, but is primarily centred on the connection with Country. Here she has created beautiful portraits from images of roadkill. Her process involves exposing dark room paper to light, using chemicals to create detail, and glass painting – with layers of various materials to etch on any final details. They are exceptional artworks.

© Judith Nangala Crispin

Ducker’s creative life has moved through various media, before finding its current fluent and persuasive expression in photography. Every one of her images reveals the lyricism of the poetic in nature. Her first photographic exhibition captured small moments of life on the ground and natural world things of short-lived beauty, a theme that has become the core motif of her work. Here, she finds the tiny pulses of new life in growth from previously dormant buds on trees devastated by fire. I particularly enjoyed viewing these burnt landscapes against a background of living trees on the campus.

© Sarah Ducker

Traveling in the Middle East and the Himalayas provided the basis for Fredericks’ essentially self-taught photography. He views culture as something that cannot be wholly accounted for through social construct; his images attempt to represent the experience when we temporarily allow our minds to suspend our thoughts and face other things. His images here can only be described as spectacular. An image of fire and salt is one of the standouts in this exhibition.

© Murray Fredericks

McGrady is a passionate advocate for telling the true stories of contemporary Aboriginal life, documenting her mob’s achievements, humanity, and beauty through a unique black lens. She has previously documented the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sportspeople with great care and perseverance. Her exceptional imagery clearly defines the implications of the disconnect in her dual roles as observer and protagonist. Here she shows us Aboriginal dancers and smoking ceremonies in urban settings.

© Barbara McGrady

Torres is an indigenous fine art photographer who draws on his personal history and explores contemporary social and political issues facing indigenous people. Much of his work involves conceptual portraiture and abstract landscapes. He wants to encourage us to seek out more truth in our own ways, whilst encouraging us to feel connected to country. Here he gives us closeups of heads, embraces and a seaside baptism. The richness of the colours in these images is striking, almost mesmerising.

© Michael Jalaru Torres

This review was also published on 15 August 2020 by the Canberra Times: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6860897/walk-of-art-connects-us-to-people-and-place/

and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog:

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First Response

Martin Ollman, Marissa McDowell, Anna Georgia: First Response. Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Until September 19, 2020.

First Response comprises four works commissioned to document Canberra’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This review looks at the three photography, film and video works in the exhibition. The fourth work was a live dance response choreographed by Shannon Hanrahan, seeking to explore the way that dance artists can work around, and even be inspired, by spatial limitations.

Photographer Martin Ollman is a freelancer based in Canberra. He has had more than 2000 of his images published around the world and has been awarded two national photographic awards. During the initial stages of Canberra’s pandemic response, he was granted access to frontline health services, political figures, and major institutions, including the Australian parliamentary Senate inquiry into it.

Ollman’s work in the exhibition, Plagued, comprises eight large monochrome digital prints on aluminium and a huge digital print on vinyl. The latter is the first thing to attract attention when you walk into the gallery. It is a collage of many images, including portraits of health workers, members of the arts and tertiary education communities and politicians, and it fills two walls. Whilst having impact for its sheer size and vibrant colours, I enjoyed his other works more. Seven of the eight are traditional portraits. Of those, the image of Nigel McRae and Beth Tully revealed something of the importance of companionship, whilst one of Peter Barclay spoke about mateship.

Martin Ollman 2020 Nigel and Beth Smith's Alternative

Nigel and Beth, Smith’s Alternative © Martin Ollman, 2020

Martin Ollman 2020 Peter Barclay

Peter Barclay © Martin Ollman, 2020

The eighth print portrays several frontline health workers by showing some of their personal protective equipment hanging on hooks with their names.

Martin Ollman, 2020. First Response, 2020

First Response, 2020 © Martin Ollman, 2020

Marissa McDowell is a Wiradjuri woman with Irish and English ancestry who has worked with Indigenous communities telling their stories through documentary film making, photography, and writing.

McDowell’s work here, Isolation, is a short documentary film exploring the COVID-19 experience of Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including their unique fears and hopes for the community’s future.

The film features personal accounts from a broad range of community members, including Elders Aunty Matilda House and Uncle Warren Daley, artists Brenda Croft and Dale Huddleston, and local students, offering insights into how they felt about these new and unfamiliar circumstances, how it has affected their families, businesses and education and their thoughts about the future.

The audio can be listened to through headphones, but I found it better to read the captions across the bottom of the video screen. The film is well made and very interesting. I was particularly struck by the fact that many of the issues identified by the indigenous community members were the same as I have heard identified by others, myself included.

Anna Georgia completed a Bachelor of Arts (History, Philosophy, Film Studies), then pursued a Masters of Visual Anthropology in the Granada Centre of Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester. This quasi-artistic field values the contributions that audio-visual mediums have to offer in the ethnographic description of human experience.

Georgia’s work here, Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue), draws on her training in ethnographic filmmaking and investigates many aspects of the lives of individuals during the restrictions and the economic downturn; including everyday circumstances and states of mind, digital engagement, and material spaces.

This film is, for me, the highlight of the overall show. Sitting watching the material on two side by side monitors I was drawn into the story being told and by the high-quality imagery I was viewing. The soundtrack did not appeal as much, perhaps because I found the volume unnecessarily loud. Indeed, it was why I found it easier to read the captions on Isolation which is showing in the same gallery space.

Still from Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue) by Anna Georgia

Still from Notes on Canberra Lockdown (A Non-Travelogue) © Anna Georgia

This review was also published in The Canberra Times at https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6860921/portraits-of-pandemics-front-line/ and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog at  https://ccc-canberracriticscircle.blogspot.com/2020/08/first-response.html, both on 8 August 2020.

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