Review: Photography and Art

Eva van Gorsel and Manuel Pfeiffer | FACETS…
M16 Artspace Gallery 1 | Until 1 November 2020

Undertaking a lengthy Australian journey, Eva van Gorsel and Manuel Pfeiffer aimed to experience and bring home their impressions of the diverse landscapes they saw. The exhibition is a celebration of that journey.

Van Gorsel is a photographer who uses an extensive range of techniques and approaches to create diverse and interesting imagery. She has a background in environmental sciences and scientific photography, and she loves the outdoors, traveling and hiking. Describing her approach, she says “photography makes me focus on all the beautiful things that exist – in the tiny detail or the grand landscapes. I’d like to capture some of this beauty and share it and maybe it can even help us as a society to better understand and appreciate the environment we live in.”

So, her works are not documentary but are interpretations of, and connection to, nature. They are shaped by her vision. One technique used is to combine her own images, satellite imagery and textures. The major end product is archival inkjet pigment prints. There is also a book of 100 postcards.

Useless Loop © Eva van Gorsel

Walking around the gallery, we view the results of van Gorsel’s investigation into how colour palette and geometric features defined the landscapes for her; revealing how life, climate and earth movements have shaped those forms and colours. We also see how she has played with the colours, the shapes, and the perspectives.

Broome © Eva van Gorsel

The works are arranged in groups revealing elements; most particularly, the facets, colours and textures seen in various places. In the Woomera area the colours are muted. Around Coober Pedy and the Breakaways, they are stronger. At the Devils Marbles they have become bold. Kakadu National Park reveals softer tones, including beautiful gentle greens. Each location has its own colours. Sometimes the colours of particular elements have been modified, emphasising those seen as consistently being part of the particular landscape.

Ningaloo © Eva van Gorsel

Amongst the most interesting works are those where van Gorsel has introduced other elements to a landscape. For example, floating in the skies over a Coober Pedy landscape we see an opal. At Fowlers Bay, the shape of a whale seen at the Nullarbor Roadhouse has been added.

Coober Pedy © Eva van Gorsel

Use of Google Earth imagery of the area being explored, adjusting the colours to create new images, use of the contour lines feature in Photoshop – all are techniques employed to create excellent works.

Fowlers Bay © Eva van Gorsel

I visited this exhibition knowing I would see good images by van Gorsel, whose work I have always admired, but knowing nothing of Pfeiffer’s work. The gallery’s Website promotion of the exhibition features just one of van Gorsel’s works and nothing of his. It only refers to them as artists and I confess to being surprised to learn that he is a visual artist of another kind.

Pfeiffer is a painter who uses an extensive range of materials, including acrylics, pencils, charcoals and much more. His works here are acrylics and mixed media on canvas. He takes inspiration from what he describes as “the ubiquitous beauty of the world surrounding us – from the coast, over the hills to the outback – and from the ‘music’ which is inherent in every place, in everything like a rock or a tree, a waterfall or a dune.”

Nullarbor © Manuel Pfeiffer – picture supplied

His works complement van Gorsel’s perfectly, revealing the same range of facets. His colours, shapes and perspectives again explore and reveal.

Pilbara © Manuel Pfeiffer – picture supplied

Together van Gorsel and Pfeiffer have produced a fine exhibition showing, as intended, many facets of Australia.

This review was first published in the Canberra Times on 31.10.20 here. It has also been published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.


Kamberra: Many Nations One Country

Marissa McDowell and Lisa Fuller
Kamberra: Many Nations One Country
Belconnen Arts Centre – Until 25 October 2020

There is a Ngunnawal word which means meeting place: Kamberra. It is a perfect representation for what Canberra has become, particularly regarding the many First Nations Australians living here today. Stories from those communities is what this exhibition is about.

Kamberra: Many Nations One Country explores the diverse perspectives of First Nations Australian mob living in Canberra on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. It explores local Traditional Owners and their connections which go back millennia, as well as diverse communities who’ve lived here for years, decades and in some cases, generations. It explores the idea of how these many groups relate to this Country, through numerous lenses.

This new media exhibition celebrates the beauty of Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country, and the diversity of the peoples from all walks of life living there today – playing sport, attending schools, caring for the environment, writing poetry, telling stories, painting murals, dancing, sharing their culture, making glass artworks, playing with pets, and much more.

Arboretum – © Marissa McDowell

The collaboration, to gather and capture their stories, was commissioned by Belconnen Arts Centre. It was led by contributors – Wiradjuri filmmaker Marissa McDowell, and Murri writer Lisa Fuller. Through various connections and art forms, they sought to explore the idea of how the diverse groups from all walks of life relate to Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. As they intended, they have respected how people always choose to identify.

Corin Forest – Drone Shot pine trees – © Marissa McDowell

McDowell is from the Wiradjuri Nation, Cowra, and has been living on Ngunnawal Country since 1984. She is a Wiradjuri woman with Irish and English heritage. She is also an independent producer at Black & White Films and has worked with Indigenous communities telling their stories through documentary film making, photography and writing. She also facilitates filmmaking workshops for youth and community.

Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello – © Marissa McDowell

Documentaries by McDowell have been screened on SBS/NITV; her poetry published through USMOB Writers and photographs displayed at PhotoAccess and the Sydney Living Museum. She has recently received her Master of Arts Screen Business and Leadership at the Australian Film and Television Radio School and is currently undertaking her Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage at Charles Sturt University.

In the photomedia parts of this exhibition we are shown video recordings of many people who agreed to be interviewed. They are displayed on a four-sided central plinth representing the ‘fire’ around which people yarn and share stories. The people are diverse – in ages, gender, and the country they are originally from. They also talk about diverse things, each revealing something of themselves. Around the walls of the new Pivot Gallery, other large screens share more about the lives and activities of members of the mob living here.

In an adjoining space, the exhibition also includes McDowell’s fine photographic portraits of eight Elders who took part. And there are various other visual artworks contributing to the overall exhibition.

Aunty Caroline Hughes Traditional Ngunnuwal Elder – © Marissa McDowell
Ngunnawal Elder Warren Daley – © Marissa McDowell

Fuller is a Murri from Eidsvold QLD, who has been living on Ngunnawal Country since 2006. She is currently doing her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Canberra. Her first novel, Ghost Bird, is due out in October 2019.

A book, also titled Kamberra: Many Nations One Country, is being sold at the gallery in conjunction with the exhibition. Designed by Fuller, it contains images from the exhibition and a great deal more, including some excellent poetry by Fuller, McDowell and various other people. The diversity of the First Nations people and what they do in Kamberra is clear in this publication.

For those of us who come from other cultural backgrounds, this exhibition adds to our knowledge of First Nations Australians.

This review was published by the Canberra times on 24.10.20 here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.


Scan & In Case Of Emergency Underpass Name

Photography Review

Chris Holly | Scan

Brenton McGeachie | In Case Of Emergency Underpass Name
M16 Artspace

24 September to 11 October 2020

The current group of exhibitions at M16 Artspace include photography shows by well-known and successful Canberra locals, Chris Holly and Brenton McGeachie.

In their art practices, Holly is particularly known for his landscapes and nature depicting the living world around us. McGeachie is primarily about space and people’s interaction with it.

Holly looks at the Seen or, if you prefer, explores the overlooked and unseen. McGeachie explores built and personal landscapes and other environments.

Whilst they are separate exhibitions with no intended links between them, I found myself exploring them both in similar ways. Mention the word Scan and many people might initially think of a photocopier or a medical examination. We also speak of scanning the horizon, perhaps assessing incoming weather. And, of course, when rushed we scan newspaper pages of most interest to us rather than reading them thoroughly.

Then, considering the word Explore we might initially think of travel we have undertaken in unfamiliar places. We might also think of making enquiries about something, or examining something using our senses – touch, smell, sight.

Scan explore elements of the Australian biota that appear through transient seasonality and disappear through an individual transformation and decay. The quality of these images is so good that I was surprised to learn they are the outcome of using a flatbed scanner without its lid in a darkened room.

A question is posed for us by Holly, inviting us to make our personal enquiries. “What do we reveal when we scan nature around us?” Eighteen beautiful scans displayed here as framed type C prints provide a response to his own question. He says that scanning across select elements of flora in a different light invites us, the viewers, to observe in different ways.

Scan #01, 2020, edition 9, type C print, size (29×29 cm)
© Chris Holly

This work is part of his lifelong biome series, exploring and documenting our biological surrounds – a biome being a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics for the environment they exist in.

Scan #11, 2020, edition 9, type C print, size (29×29 cm)
© Chris Holly

Reading the catalogue, we are invited to slow our breathing and stare at an image for at least twenty seconds, then close their eyes to see “into the great void”, when the “vestige will appear”. It suggests the retinal and memory vestige will encourage us all to see again what is overlooked. Visit and try it.

Scan #23, 2020, edition 9, type C print, size (29×29 cm)
© Chris Holly

In Case of Emergency Underpass explores ‘ignored’ spaces of cities and suburbia, mostly in Japan with some in Indonesia. The somewhat lengthy exhibition title comes directly from one of the images. In a sense these images too are scans – the result of McGeachie scanning those spaces and finding elements of particular interest that relate together, such as underpasses lacking people. The lack of interaction by people is the antithesis of what we think of in bustling Japan.

Untitled 1, Pigment ink on Hahnemuhle paper, 603 mm x 430 mm © Brenton McGeachie

Each of fourteen framed prints (pigment ink on Hahnemuhle paper) is worthy of close inspection. Viewers should scan and explore them closely, looking for details within the images – hopefully seeing for themselves the things McGeachie saw that caused him to take these excellent photographs. For me they are contemporary landscapes revealing things that might not be seen when the locations are filled with people.

Untitled 6, Pigment ink on Hahnemuhle paper, 603 mm x 430 mm © Brenton McGeachie
Untitled 11, Pigment ink on Hahnemuhle paper, 603 mm x 430 mm © Brenton McGeachie

All good photographers scan – or explore – the material in front of their eyes seeking to identify the key elements, to see how the light is working its magic to reveal or hide certain things, and to then frame what they have seen and push the button to record the image. Both Holly and McGeachie have done that.

This review was first published on page 10 of Panorama in the Canberra Times of 10/10/20. It is also at the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.


The Journey Through

Photography Review

Various Artists | The Journey Through
Photo Access | 17 September to 10 October 2020

Exciting. Absorbing. Exquisite. Quirky. Powerful. Just some of the responses I had when exploring this exhibition.

The Journey Through is a group exhibition featuring works created during Concept to Exhibition, an eight-month long PhotoAccess workshop led by Canberra photographer and artist Grace Costa. It features brand new work from Astrid Breuer, Alan Charlton, Michelle Crosbie, Shan Crosbie, Leanne Harrison, Tracy Hebden, Tessa Ivison, Ina Jalil, Thea McGrath, Linda Roche, and Michael Taylor.

Photo Access Director, Dr. Kirsten Wehner, says “Each artist is simultaneously exploring, confronting and also sharing their voice through photographic expression.”

Alan Charlton, much of whose photography I am familiar with, has produced an outstanding new set of work going beyond what I have previously seen. Traveling the familiar highway between Canberra and Goulburn, he has explored scenes that we may or may not have noticed. Fourteen inkjet prints surround a substantial long concertina book, filling one of the longest walls of the gallery.

Alone, 2020, inkjet print, 33cm x 48.3cm © Alan Charlton

By contrast, another participant with whose imagery I am familiar is exhibiting just one work. It is substantial – a 76cm by 76cm print. This powerful portrait of Michael Taylor is on the small end wall of the gallery confronting visitors as they explore the space.

Self, 2020, 76cm x 76cm ©Michael Taylor

Ina Jalil also has contributed a self-portrait, but she is displaying three versions of herself exploring the different identities to which she feels expected to conform – cultural expectations, corporate persona, and photographer. This is another strong work.

This Is Me, 2020, 170cm x 85mm © Ina Jalil

Thea McGrath’s contribution is a wonderful series of cyanotypes with hand stitching using silk thread, sharing some intimate detail of her broken maternal lines as she seeks to heal old wounds. Each work is displayed in delightful hung frames and the overall display of her eight works is another gem in this fine exhibition.

Reclaim, 2020, cyanotype and silk thread, 15cm x 21cm ©Thea McGrath

Astrid Breuer offers an “immersive audio-visual experience”, wanting visitors to feel the rejuvenating powers of the Jerrabomberra Wetlands and leave feeling calm. She has achieved her aim with a short video comprising still and moving images of beautiful Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

Still from audio-visual © Astrid Breuer

Shan Crosbie offers a contribution that is at once whimsical, delightful, and educational. Images of 55 eggs laid by six hens in July have been transferred onto handmade paper – from egg cartons. They are displayed in one group, alongside seven separate chicken images with titles such as Allosaurus and Bambiraptor.

Bambiraptor, 2020, phototransfer on handmade egg carton paper, 105 x 148mm
© Shan Crosbie

Leanne Harrison contributes six large inkjet prints featuring juxtaposed blurred images with more recognisable forms; unified they draw us in through a strong sense of movement.

Tracey Hebden focusses on her personal embracing of what she describes as the connection between the Sacred Feminine and Self. These works are a response to the current movement of women leading by reclaiming feminine traits for their strength and power.

© Tracey Hebden

Tessa Ivison explores the unspoken side of grief, having taken shots that she felt reflected how she was feeling as she walked along familiar paths whilst dealing with the death of her partner.

© Tessa Iverson

Linda Roche is displaying four dazzling coloured images – astrophotography and light painting. They immediately command attention and then keep you looking at their boldness.

© Linda Roche

Michelle Crosbie’s prints explore textured surfaces highlighted within shadows. Along with all the other works in this excellent exhibition, they demand your exploration of them.

© Michelle Crosbie

Grace Costa has done a fine job of mentoring these eleven photographers of varying skill levels on their journeys through eight long months. They have each produced a new body of work building on a creative concept outside their usual photographic comfort zone. Each body of work tells an excellent personal story, as they have used their photographic voices to confront and share.

This review (with fewer images) was first published on 3 October 2020 in The Canbera Times here. It has also been published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.