Exhibition Review, Photography Story, Reviews

No Name Lane

Review of Photography “Exhibition”

No Name Lane | Hilary Wardhaugh

End date not known yet, but probably until the end of 2022

Many, if not all, cities and towns have pedestrian laneways without names. Queanbeyan has one that is now being referred to as No Name Lane. It runs off the northern side of Monaro Street and is directly opposite Blacksmiths Lane on the southern side. After securing funding from the NSW Government’s Your High Street grant program in May 2021, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council put in place a project to improve the safety, amenity and functionality of these two lanes.

Four artists are currently creating a contemporary take on an evocative old-world experience in Blacksmiths Lane. The concept is to reimagine the laneway experience reminiscent of the blacksmiths and wheelwrights who used to work in Monaro Street dating back to 1877.

In contrast, No Name Lane has a colourful and contemporary design. Canberra-based artist Yanni Pounartzis has completed a large-scale mural work in “fun colours” that encompasses both façades and pavement. The re-designed laneway also features neon light elements, greenery, new seating and a collection of lightboxes to showcase rotating exhibitions from local artists. In effect it has become an outdoor art gallery.

Looking along No Name Lane towards and across Monaro Street, we can see through Blacksmiths Lane on the opposite side to a large-scale mural on the side of The Q theatre, featuring Ricky Stuart as the face of Queanbeyan – another Council project.

The first exhibition in No Name Lane is now in place. The artworks are by well-known Queanbeyan professional photographer/artist Hilary Wardhaugh. She has said “Photography to me is more than just a business, it’s an expression.” The “candid, photo journalistic moments” and the “the dirt in between” is what lures her to capture an image.

This display brings together a number of quiet and reflective scenes from around the region.

Autumn in the Bush © Hilary Wardhaugh
Under London Bridge © Hilary Wardhaugh

Wardhaugh tells me she did not personally curate the artworks. Rather, the agency designing the laneway selected them from images she supplied. Some are from her project #welcomenotwelcome – exhibited at PhotoAccess in 2016, and in her finalist photobook in the 2017 Australian AIPP Photography Book of the Year.

Wardhaugh loves documenting urban scenes that are often not noticed by passers-by but which, with the right light, can quietly come together in a body of work. She loves creating mystery, asking the viewers to question or imagine what is behind a wall, fence or hedge – her images deliberately framed so as not to reveal the answers. A published review of #welcomenotwelcome said “It is a case of what you see is not what I want you to see.”

Grass is always greener © Hilary Wardhaugh

One image featuring a quite lovely colourful floral hedge has the intriguing title I haven’t got a welcome mat because I’m not a fucking liar. Virtually all we can see beyond the hedge is a broodingly dark cloud-filled sky.

I Haven’t Got a Welcome Mat Because I’m Not A Fucking Liar © Hilary Wardhaugh

Build a Fence also features a substantial area of sky, with a tiny glimpse of the moon, plus the tops of two streetlights – one adorned by the presence of a bird. But the new-looking fence, with absolutely no gaps in it, totally hides whatever else might be beyond.

Build A Fence © Hilary Wardhaugh

Wardhaugh considers couches sitting by the roadside to be “so Queanbeyan”; therefore something that just had to be part of this display. She views abandoned couches as a comment on our throwaway society. This artist is not the only person to photograph such couches – indeed, there is a Canberra-based Instagram account devoted to them, @kerbsidecouches.

Couches of Queanbeyan 001 © Hilary Wardhaugh

No Name Lane’s gallery space is a welcome addition to the Queanbeyan CBD and Wardhaugh a most appropriate choice for the first artist to be featured there.

This review was published on page 10 of Panorama in The Canberra Times of 20.8.22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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