Building Blocks | Sarah Annand | Super Sport Sunday | Thomas Lord | Altering the Edges | Ellen Dahl

Photography, Visual Art – Review

Building Blocks | Sarah Annand

Super Sport Sunday | Thomas Lord

Altering the Edges | Ellen Dahl

Photo Access | Until 8 May 2021

Each of these three solo shows seeks to explore the meanings and transformations of place in the landscape. Each contributing artist examines built and/or natural environments – Annand tracing intersections between architectural photography and textile design, Lord producing exacting fine art darkroom prints, and Dahl combining poetry and photographic images.

 Sarah Annand is a Canberra-based artist, photographer and textile designer. In Building Blocks, she draws on distinctive modernist and brutalist architectural styles, demonstrating the power of simple shape and form in some of Canberra’s architecture. The thread of imagery which runs through Annand’s photography, paintings and textile designs presents clever abstraction and repetition.

Photographic images of shapes, shadows, light and texture at places such as the Australian War Memorial Annex and the High Court of Australia reveal bold polygons and earthy textures. The image NGA Series – 1, 2020, showing parts of the exterior of the National Gallery of Australia, is particularly strong. The forms and structures in this, and other such buildings, carry over into Annand’s paintings and digital prints on various materials – canvas, cotton rag, paper and linen/cotton.

Sarah Annand, NGA Series – 1, 2020
Sarah Annand, AWM Annex Series – 2, 2020

The complete body of work is a visual study of Annand’s artistic process, leading gallery visitors through her creative journey from photography to an impressive, finished textile design.

Sarah Annand, HC Shadow Studies – 2, 2020

Super Sport Sunday from New Zealand artist Thomas Lord presents a series of large format black and white photographs exploring the greater Otago region. They show us spaces of contemplation – some wild, some urban and some curated to represent nature.

The title of Lord’s show is initially mysterious. We learn that places revealed in the images are settings or stages for human adventure, or encounter, activities – rites of passage for local young adults. These are places where various unrevealed leisure activities were pursued. What those activities were, or why they happened in those places, probably is not important for us as viewers. However, think about the use of cannabis in a country where it is illegal.

What we are shown is detail of each place – mown grass, concrete structures, a wire fence, indigenous trees and introduced weeds. All those things and more are portrayed. The large hand printed darkroom prints are of excellent quality and a number of them drew me in to explore their content for a lengthy time.

Thomas Lord, Fox Glove on a Surfer’s Track, 2020
Thomas Lord, Kanuka Forest Remnant near Allans Beach, 2020
Thomas Lord, Wheki at Bull Creek, 2020

Altering the Edges by Ellen Dahl (NSW) probes the idea of ‘landscape’ to express trepidations around the Anthropocene. She has a continuing interest in ‘places at the edge of the world’ and, in this exhibition, presents works from the peripheries of the arctic island of Spitsbergen in Norway, and from Tasmania.

Each of Dahl’s works incorporate a stanza of poetry by Hannah Jenkins below the image. The words are Jenkins’ responses to the places portrayed. The suggestion is that poetic intimacy “might help us contend with mega-concepts like globalisation and the climate crisis that now threaten to overwhelm us”.

I am enthusiastic about the use of words, whether poetry or prose, in association with images. I like it both overlaid on images or set out below. In this case I felt the white areas beneath the images were overly large spaces to contain the words.

Despite the artist’s desire to “articulate uncertainties of place and belonging”, the images themselves are sublime, as one would expect of these landscapes. I particularly liked #5, with the stanza “I stay low / like a stratum laid on the ocean / floor in the pull of supercontinents”. And #18 “I pull minerals / for my mantle like / un-pristine royalty lying face down”.

Ellen Dahl, Field Notes from the Edge #5, 2021. Stanza Hannah Jenkins’ Valley
Ellen Dahl, Field Notes from the Edge #18, 2021 Stanza Hannah Jenkins’ Valley
Ellen Dahl, Field Notes from the Edge #21, 2021 Stanza Hannah Jenkins’ Valley

This review was published in the Canberra Times of 24/04/21 here and on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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