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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: