Exhibition Review, Reviews


Photography Exhibition Review



The Reflections on Nature artist-in-residence project was launched on social media at the end of April 2020. At that time it was described as “designed to encourage artists to connect with nature over the coming months…… observing and creating in response to observations of colour, regrowth, seasonal change and interesting revelations….. for everyone from beginner artists ….. a guided journey of topics and inspirational thoughts….. a safe space …. to share …. sketches, photos, ideas, prose and observations.…… We may even grow this into an exhibition of observations or a publication eventually!”

Well it certainly grew. And now there is an exhibition of works selected from the huge number of observations by the substantial membership of the project – more than 600 people made thousands of contributions. The creative reflections gathered represent a unique and contemplative perspective on the environment during a time when our world changed. 

Before this project was born, the environment had been dreadfully damaged by fire and drought. Then COVID-19 began. As a result, project participants felt a great need to explore the outdoors. They slowed down and looked for ways to create a sense of possibility, and for the promise of healing.

Photographers, writers, artists, journalers, ecologists and naturalists joined forces exploring the natural environment. Places they often knew well became sources of fresh wonder and delight, as they rediscovered and saw them afresh. Indeed this was a personal experience as I walked around the open areas of my own suburb.

Over a period of twelve months of guided, focussed observations in the Canberra region and beyond, the artists shared purpose around a common interest in nature resulted in a rich record of their experiences.

The exhibition was officially opened on World Wetlands Day (wetlands are being lost three times faster than forests) by Senator David Pocock who described the artworks as incredible and the exhibition as making a massive contribution.

The Senator noted that First Nations people had looked after our environment for thousands of years and that we all need to do so now. He suggested the participants’ engagement with the environment had gathered information that politicians could not ignore, and urged all present to fight for what they love – the bush capital and its landscape – by having hard cultural conversations with other Canberra residents and seeking to engage the next generation.

The many fine artworks on display are diverse – photography, video, drawings, painting, sketched and written journal entries, and more. It is difficult to single out some artworks for individual mention.

However, amongst those to which I was drawn was Bohie Palecek’s delightful and colourful portrait of herself with a bird on her shoulder.

Transformations Theme – Self-portrait by Bohie Palecek

Rainer Rehwinkle’s spectacular Grasslands was one of many standout photographic images.

Sense of Place theme – Rainer Rehwinkel – Grassland image-2

I also very much enjoyed David Flannery’s various quality bird images.

Transformations Theme – Choughs – Photography by David Flannery

Amongst the many collages is an excellent one of eucalypt bark abstracts.

Panel of eucalypt patterns – colours and textures by Terry Rushton (Installation shot)

Chris Lockley is showing a colourful image amongst another of the collages.

Waning Theme – Fungi photography by Chris Lockley

Sue Bond shares a delightful photo of a crane fly at a sundew .

Textures and Revelations Theme – A sundew with a crane fly Photography by Sue Bond

There also are many marvellous journal pages to flick through or explore carefully, depending how much time you are able to spend at the exhibition.

Emergence Theme – Nature journaling of grassland forbes by Julia Landford

Julia Landford 1

Waning Theme – nature journaling response by Fiona Boxall (watercolour sketch)

An engaging Nature Video by David Rees is also well worth viewing in its entirety. Images included in the video can be seen on his Flickr site here.

I could go on sharing details of individual artworks here for ever, but it would be much better to visit the exhibition for yourself if possible. If you can’t make it, take a look at the project’s Facebook page here.

I understand the organisers have been invited to show the work at Canberra Museum and Gallery in 2024, which is further recognition of the importance of our environment and the value of nature. It will provide another opportunity to see the artworks on display.

This review is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews

Pictures of You

Photography Exhibition Review

Pictures of You | Hilary Wardhaugh

Belconnen Arts Centre | 2–17 December 2022, & 17 January – 5 February 2023

In 2017, Canberran John Brookes was given three months to live. He reached out to an artist to paint a memorial portrait. He is still going five years later and intends to continue for the foreseeable future!

Along the way, Brookes established Canberry Communications – a non-profit that supports communities including those with mental and/or physical disability. It develops arts projects in a range of media for small charities who may not otherwise have the resources to implement them. It believes strongly in giving a voice, enabling people to tell their own stories in unique and thought-provoking ways – looking beyond their ‘issues’ to the whole person.

This exhibition is the first outcome of one such arts project. Undertaken in collaboration with photographer Hilary Wardhaugh and the Belconnen Arts Centre, it was launched along with a number of other art exhibitions, each celebrating ageing or disability, on the eve of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, held worldwide annually to observe and highlight issues that affect people with disabilities.

More than a photographer, Wardhaugh is an artist, activist/provocateur, volunteer and creator of community. Her creative endeavours bring people together in the pursuit of a better world. Her interests involve the human condition: frailty, irony, contradiction. And she pursues topical and creative projects to highlight themes and issues reflecting those conditions.

Pictures of You takes a unique approach to portraying people with lived experience of being disabled or of being mental health consumers. Each person collaborated as equals with Wardhaugh to produce their portraits honestly reflecting them as whole persons and not just ‘consumers’ – a process that had surprising and inspirational results, both for the subjects and the artist.

The collaborations asked a question – have you ever tried to explain how it is to be YOU? To a friend, a partner, your family, a professional – even to yourself? Now it asks us to imagine having a disability or being a mental health consumer, to think about the prejudices that come with that, and the challenges of engaging people to look beyond our imagined disability to the whole of our personalities.

It is suggested, correctly, that an image: a single depiction of mood, hopes, fears, strengths and personality, can say so much more than words. Imagine having an image that is YOU, that sums up who and what you are, a source of pride that you can keep, display and say…“this is me.”

This is the focus of the Pictures of You exhibition, a modest yet important show highlighting that people with disabilities and mental health consumers are equal to everyone else, have as much to offer and give as the rest of us, are people to be admired and loved just as much as every other person. They have feelings, they have skills and talents, they can do all sorts of things. There are images of individuals and one group shot of some talented, determined, enthusiastic, and absolutely impressive people with disability in the Rebus Theatre family.

Most, perhaps all, of the people portrayed in Wardhaugh’s artworks were present at the opening and gladly lined up for group shots with the artist and others. It was wonderful to see the people alongside their portraits. Bruno would probably have loved to play his guitar for everyone in the large crowd.

Bruno Cirillo © Hilary Wardhaugh

The Rebus folk no doubt would also have loved to perform show their talents.

Rebus © Hilary Wardhaugh

Go take a look and ask yourself who these portrayed people are.

Arto © Hilary Wardhaugh

Eleanor Waight © Hilary Wardhaugh

Glen © Hilary Wardhaugh

Melissa Hammond © Hilary Wardhaugh

Some other photographic artworks amongst the companion exhibitions are also well worth seeing. Indeed, I encourage you to see all the exhibitions.

This review was first published online by The Canberra Times here and then printed on 10/12/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.