Exhibition Review, Reviews


Photography Exhibition Review

Salt | Sammy Hawker

(including Dark Crystals collaboration | Sammy Hawker, Jessica Hamilton & Sam Tomkins)

Mixing Room Gallery | 9 Feb – 25 Mar 2023

Salt is a new exhibition by ACT-based visual artist Sammy Hawker. A substantial crowd (perhaps 200) at the opening was simply buzzing with conversation and excitement.

Hawker attracted early attention when her work Boy in Versailles was selected by renowned photographer Bill Henson for the 2010 Capture the Fade exhibition in Sydney. And it was the people’s choice winner.

Then we were all impressed in 2019 with her video Dieback about the eerie phenomena of mass tree extinction – white gums in the Snowy-Monaro. Along her artistic journey since, Hawker has had significant success. This exhibition once again delivers. As Senior Curator of Visual Arts at Canberra Museum and Gallery, Virginia Rigney, said in her opening remarks, Hawker’s use of the familiar substance of salt reveals new mysteries.

This exhibition includes works from recent trips across Australia, travelling from the East Coast (the Yuin Nation and Arakwal Country) to Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre (Arabana Country). Taking her ‘studio’ with her, spending significant time at each location to understand it, then co-creating art by processing photos where they were exposed using traces of salt found at the sites to lift the emulsion and alter the documentary images. Hawker speaks of places where a quiet magic resonates; where the water leaves the blood sparkling in your veins; where the horizon disappears – and the sound of nothingness compresses around you.

Hawker’s process brings an essence of Country into her work, painting its way onto negatives and sharing deep and mysterious forces around us that transform her photographs. The details in Broulee Salt Sketch from 2020 show that very clearly. So too do Did I Dream You Dreamt About Me? and Everything is Waiting for You.

Broulee Salt Sketch (Details), 2020 © Sammy Hawker

Did I Dream You Dreamt About Me © Sammy Hawker

Everything is Waiting for You © Sammy Hawker

Two Lake Eyre works are amongst the standout images, Epiphanous and Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre, both featuring delicious pastel tones and the latter revealing a selected pattern from high above.

Epiphanous [Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre] © Sammy Hawker

Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre [From the Skies #2] © Sammy Hawker

Amongst the black and white images, Everything is Waiting for You and Did I Dream You Dreamt About Me? each pose numerous questions. The latter demanded I grab a phone shot of someone reflected in it, dreamily exploring. And the inclusion of Hawker’s 2022 Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize winning work, Mount Gulaga, is a bonus for those who have not previously seen it.

Mount Gulaga © Sammy Hawker

There is also a marvellous collaborative work between Hawker, Jessica Hamilton & Sam Tomkins. It explores the possibilities around generating dialogue between image, sound and form.

Their starting point is Hawker’s image, Dark Crystals, a work processed with ocean water at Mollymook, NSW (Yuin Nation) in 2021. Hamilton has a special connection to the place this image was created and was inspired to use the visual data along the horizon line of the image to create a spectrogram. It picked up the varied textures deposited on the negative by the ocean’s salt. She then converted the spectrogram into a waveform and processed it through a synthesiser to create a sound piece.

Dark crystals Waveform horizon © Sammy Hawker, Jessica Hamilton & Sam Tomkins

Next, Tomkins designed and created a chladni plate (use your favourite search engine for information) to respond to the sounds. When the plate is oscillating with certain frequencies, the salt on top creates distinct patterns. Hawker used an online pitch detector to break down the various notes/frequencies in the sound piece. Played through the plate, the visual patterns formed – such as 1041.8 Hz – C6 are intriguing.

1041.8 Hz – C6 © Sammy Hawker, Jessica Hamilton & Sam Tomkins

I look forward to more exciting outcomes from these collaborators.

The exhibition is more than just printed images. There are negatives on display too and, perhaps best of all, a great journal of Hawker’s words along with numerous images worthy of close examination.

This review was first published in The Canberra Times on page 5 of Panorama and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Photo Book Review, Reviews

Concept to Publication, 2022

Review of Photobooks Exhibition

Concept to Publication| Beata Tworek, Caroline Lemerle, Claire Manning, Con Boekel, Grant Winkler, Ian Houghton, Jamie Hladky, Louise Grayson, Rob Lee, Sara Edson, Yvette Morris

Photo Access | 13 – 22 October 2022

PhotoAccess recently launched numerous independently published photo-books, all made during its inaugural workshop program Concept to Publication. Guided by Canberra-based documentary photographer Dave Hempenstall, eleven photographers came together to explore the potential of the photographic book.

Over ten months, they investigated different forms, discussed significant historical and contemporary works, experimented with making and the materiality of the photo-book and refined their authors’ voices to make the books that then were put on exhibition at Photo Access. Copies of some of the books were also available for purchase.

Spending time in the gallery looking at, and through, each book is a most pleasant way to spend time. The books are diverse in every way. There are, in fact, more books than authors. Rob Lee has a set of eight slim books about eight different places where books are to be found. They include a reading room, a museum, various libraries and, even, the Lifeline Bookfair’s warehouse. Perhaps, next, he might make books in people’s home bookshelves, in bedside table piles, or even in their hands being read whilst traveling on public transport?

Sara Edson has two books on display, both very small. Transfer from Dalton is tied in a tiny parcel. It is a delightful little concertina folded book that one could play with for hours turning it about in many directions. Both contain numerous pleasing colour photographs.

Transfer from Dalton. Book by Sara Edson. Image by Dave Hempenstall

Louise Grayson’s book shows images of Deception Island, Antarctica. The photos are a mix of monochrome and colour shots amongst quite a number of blank white pages. Where there are images on facing pages, I was unsure about some of the juxtapositions but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of the publication. I particularly enjoyed the images of birds in flight over the landscapes and, especially, one essentially black and white image with just a small splash of red – a worn jacket and hat.

Con Boekel also has blank pages amongst his fine images of wounded trees. This book is about the small urban nature island known as Dryandra Street Woodland, where many trees have been cut with axes or chainsaws. He sees the wounds on the trees as symbols of the damage inflicted by humans; and trees there that flourish as symbols of hope for the future. This is a great project, and the book is appropriately dedicated to Canberra’s nature conservation volunteers.

Caroline Lemerle has taken what might be described as a traditional approach but, regardless of whether that is the case or not, she tells her story That 50th extremely well showing, through splendid imagery the friendships, family, food, fanfare and feasting of what clearly was a great celebration.

Beata Tworek’s Everyday Magic includes some shots that might initially be seen as mundane. But all are, indeed, magical. Again there are some blank pages – this time some are white but others black. There are also a number of beautiful transparent pages of photographed flora – these add immensely to the finished product.

Yvette Morris has also included blank pages in The Space Between, so I presume the project identified that as an option participants might incorporate into their books. This particular work explores transient space through black and white images of dirt mounds – again mundane subject matter. Morris successfully draws an analogy between the transitory space of unnoticed changes in the mounds and everyday subtle changes in people.

The Space Between. Book by Yvette Morris. Image by Dave Hempenstall

In Wrong Way, Go Back, Grant Winkler acknowledges his wife’s encouragement to persist and also the value of the interactions with other participants and Hempenstall. Whilst the photographs in the book might at first seem random selections, spending time with them effectively enables the viewer to get his message.

Jamie Hladky’s When we drove out of town to escape the bushfire smoke is a spiral bound collection of moody black and white, smoky images. Another excellent book in this collection.

Moments We See is Claire Manning’s contribution. It is a delightful hand-bound book of fold out pages, each of which open to reveal words about pairs of photos revealing how she sees and interacts with her world. It is a most successful and clever creation that could be enjoyed repeatedly.

Moments We See. Book by Claire Manning. Image by Dave Hempenstall.

Last, but not least, there is Ian Houghton’s Ginninderra Creek. This is a lay-flat book of quality double-page spread images about the creek which is a green corridor through urban areas of Gungahlin and Belconnen as well as across rural land. Again, it tells a great story.

Ginninderra Creek. Book by Ian Houghton. Image by Dave Hempenstall

Photo Access has suggested that the wonderfully diverse approaches and final forms are a testament to the participants dedication to the process. I agree. The program was deemed so successful that Photo Access has already announced another such event for 2023.

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

Exhibition Review, Reviews

Delicate Delights

Photography Exhibition Review

Delicate Delights | Yasmin Idriss

Strathnairn Homestead Gallery | 22 September – 16 October

Yasmin Idriss describes herself as an emerging artist and photographer. In 2017, this Canberra resident graduated Bachelor of Visual Arts (Photomedia – Honours) from the Australian National University (ANU). Idriss has been making peoples’ portraits for more than thirty years and says she sees the photogenic potential in everyone she meets.

Idriss enjoys working with both digital and traditional film processes. She also loves to experiment with liquid light, printmaking, painting and creating sculptures from steel or found objects. Her art is influenced by a love of flora and the natural environment.

This exhibition, Delicate Delights, is a culmination of several years of quiet contemplation and photography in isolation – you know why. Many artists turned inwards for creative ideas. To stave off mental health issues, Idriss turned to her pets and nature, and found quiet inspiration in her cats as well as the inquisitive birds, colourful flowers and gardens around her home.

As COVID restrictions eased, Idriss continued to explore the diverse flora and fauna in gardens. This exhibition displays just some resultant artworks featuring flowers.

Flowers are commonly part of the most important occasions of life and have a language of their own. Particular flowers are considered appropriate to specific occasions like birthdays, funerals and weddings.

Most of us know that red roses symbolise love, but not so many of us have the same knowledge of the symbolism of other flowers. During the Victorian era, special meanings were assigned to various flowers, allowing people to express feelings which could not be spoken. This practice, floriography, still thrives today.

An 1875 book, The language and poetry of flowers, includes these words: There is a language, little known, Lovers claim it as their own, Its symbols smile upon the land, Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;…. the language of the flowers.

So it is not surprising that, throughout human history, flowers have been a central focus of many artists. There are many famous paintings of flowers – such as van Gogh’s sunflowers, Monet’s water lilies, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Iris.

Famous photographs of flowers are not so easy to find. One famous photographer working in the genre of flower photography was Imogen Cunningham. She began her career creating pictorialism photographs – a technique emphasising artificial, often romanticised, pictorial qualities, mimicking academic painting. She used a soft focus to make her photos blurry. She created some delightful black and white images of lilies in the 1920s. One hundred years later, Canberra artist Lyndall Gerlach is doing the same.

But these works by Idriss are colour shots of brightly coloured flowers. They show us what the vast majority see rather than the monochromatic versions seen by those few affected by monochromacy (complete colour blindness). She is not alone in creating imagery of flowers. Social media reveals it is a popular genre amongst both professional and amateur photographers.

It is also common to see flower images made by members of photography clubs – both monochromatic and coloured works. In my view, the best works are those that go beyond documentation. They use shallow focus, intentional camera movement, carefully thought-out viewpoints to create different compositions, and other techniques – to create interesting and beautiful artworks.

The best examples here include Breeze, a study in pinks in which the flower is definitely stirred by a breeze.


Love letters in Response and Pop of Red make excellent use of shallow focus.

Yasmin_Idriss-Love letters in Response
Yasmin_Idriss-Pop of red

My delicate delight and Frilly delight are perfectly titled.

Yasmin_Idriss-Delicate Delight
Yasmin_Idriss-Frilly Delight

If you love the colourful flowers of Spring, then these are images you should very much enjoy, along with coffee and cake during a Springtime visit to Strathnairn.

This review was first published online by The Canberra Times on 27/9/22 here, then in print on page 19 of the paper of 10/10/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews

Into the Blue II

Photography Exhibition Review

Into the Blue II | Andrea Bryant, Kim Sinclair, Carolyn Pettigrew, Kiera Hudson, Carolyn Young, Linda Sukamta, Chris Byrnes, Mat Hughes, Ellie Young, Peter McDonald, Hilary Warren, Rebecca Murray, Jean Burke, Susan Baran, Jenny Dettrick, Virginia Walsh, Kaye Dixon & Wendy Currie

Sutton Village Gallery | 8 September – 9 October

Into the Blue II is the second annual group exhibition at Sutton Village Gallery showcasing the historic Cyanotype print and its application in contemporary art.

Eighteen artists showcase a variety of cyanotype print methods using both original and ‘new’ cyanotype formulae, including prints on fabric, wet cyanotypes, photograms, contact prints from both large format film negatives and digital negatives, toned prints, and incorporated in multi-media applications.

Cyanotypes are one of the oldest photographic printing processes in the history of photography. The distinctive original feature of the prints is their cyan blue colour, resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light. But if you go to this exhibition expecting all the prints to be purely that colour, then you are in for a surprise. P McDonald’s Rocks Mornington Peninsula is a classic example. It is not cyan blue; it is a sepia colour.

Rocks Mornington Peninsula © P McDonald

If you expect all the works to have uneven edges revealing where the chemical solution was applied, again you will be surprised. So too if you expect all the works to be on fabrics or watercolour papers and not framed.

Melbourne-based photographer Mat Hughes works primarily with large format view cameras. Wet scans from selected negatives are meticulously made to create quality digital negatives from which to contact print. He finds light in dark shadows and turns the normal into sublime in his unique, beautiful and delicate printed cyanotypes. His Woodys Lake is a glorious example, although again not cyan blue.

Woodys Lake © Mat Hughes

Another Melbourne-based artist, Keira Hudson, specialises in different photographic processes, often interweaving different mediums together. During 2022, working with an artificial intelligence (AI) program, Hudson input different text prompts then altered the resulting images physically and digitally to create her cyanotypes on fabric.

Hudson’s use of AI raises interesting questions – many photographers currently are debating whether doing so means the outcome is no longer photography. More importantly, Getty Images is now refusing to accept submissions created using AI generative models because of concerns regarding copyright and plagiarism. Of Hudson’s artworks here, I most enjoyed Chalkboard. I have no idea how it was created, but it certainly says cyanotype to me, and I like it.

Chalkboard, 2022 © Keira Hudson

In Linda Sukamta’s cyanotype prints, the use of various artistic or communicative media, design and image layering applications are less habitually used techniques characteristic of her practice. Right Where I Belong is a fine example. Primarily in the traditional cyan blue, but also including a nearly opposite orange-red colour, it features botany.

Right Where I Belong © Linda Sukamta

Carolyn Young is a visual artist based in the Canberra region. Her artworks engage in ideas around land care, relationship to place, and between culture and nature. The excellent piece included here is a portrait of Harriet Scott (a naturalist in the mid-late 1880s) and chenuala heliaspis (a type of local moth thought to feed on wattle, eucalypts & pine).

Harriet Scott and Chenuala Heliaspis © Carolyn Young

Kaye Dixon is displaying some wonderfully imaginative works, reminiscent of illustrations in children’s or fantasy books. Of them, Draco the Dragon is the standout for me.

Draco the Dragon (from the bone woman series) © Kaye Dixon

Rebecca Murray is a Victoria-based artist engaging in contemporary and historical photographic processes. Works which explore time, place, belonging and un-belonging feature in this exhibition.

I did find myself wondering about the use of matting and frames resulting in the covering up of the traditional “messy” edges which have always been part of cyanotypes. Perhaps the artists primarily do so in order to create attractive pieces for potential purchasers to display on their home walls?

Each artist in the exhibition has contributed works well worth viewing – and a drive to Sutton Village to visit this gallery (and the nearby bakery) is a pleasing outing at any time.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times online here and at page 43 of their print version of 3/10/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews


Photography Exhibition Review

Un/known | Susan Bell, Emily Blenkin, Fiona Bowring, Andrea Bryant, Saini Copp, Sophia Coombs, Annette Fischer, Lucy Found, Saskia Haalebos, Kristian Herman, Lia Kemmis, Eunie Kim, Kathy Leo, Louise Maurer, Kleber Osorio, Margaret Stapper, Beata Tworek, Sarah Vandermar

Photo Access | 15 SEPTEMBER – 8 OCTOBER 2022

Featuring works created during PhotoAccess’ Concept to Exhibition 2022 workshop, Un/known brings together a variety of artists examining, confronting and sharing personal stories. During nine months, mentored by 2021 National Photographic Portrait Prize finalist Marzena Wasikowska, the displaying artists went beyond their settled methods of working. Bringing varying levels of skill and past practice to the workshop, the artists have each advanced their photovoice and produced new work, expressing their one-of-a-kind approaches to image-making.

The resultant exhibition is substantial and diverse. Sixty-three works, including two video pieces and a photobook, take quite some time to explore properly. And it is impossible to properly do justice to all eighteen artists and their works here.

The catalogue speaks of two images by Kleber Osorio showing evidence of a style familiar to him, and of a new approach emerging. His four new works effectively use water and reflections in that new approach.

Louise Maurer shows two fine prints layering elements of multiple images to create new works. Both can fairly be described as compilations of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations – as encountered in dreams.

Sophia Coombs has four delightful prints exploring femininity through connection to the ocean. The woman in the sea is, of course, a female figure in an ocean. That sea is also a woman “because she is deep and wild.”

Sophia Coombs – The woman in the sea

Margaret Stapper has successfully explored whether photography can be therapeutic and enable reconnection with the past. She has made excellent composites inserting old photos of herself into new images. The facial expressions seen in the work In Conversation tell a wonderful story.

Margaret Stapper – In Conversation, 2022, composite photograph

Beata Tworek has used gold powder and thread to enhance scars such that “shameful” body imperfections have become valuable symbols.

Eunie Kim contributes some delightful works using silver-gelatin liquid emulsion and cyanotype print on acrylic paper.

Fiona Bowring’s video and photobook of women working in Fyshwick contains great imagery and warrant taking the necessary time to explore both thoroughly. Ruth at the sink is just one example of these workers.

Fiona Bowring, Ruth at the sink, 2022, digital photograph

Andrea Bryant’s three giclee prints, including Flux 2, are simply superb.

Andrea Bryant, Flux 2, 2022

Kathryn Leo is showing two posters seeking, through images and words, to reveal something of life’s journey. Smooth and Rough is the more successful of them.

Kathryn Leo, Smooth and Rough, 2022

Adam Luckhurst is showing a body of work seeking to highlight the perilous climate circumstances that we are in. I needed to read his words, including a poem Destination, in the catalogue before his message was clear to me.

Annette Fisher gives us The Pregnant Tree, a delightful installation comprising a balls of crushed photos hanging on a dead branch. The images are of the ruins and remains following a building annihilation. Her suggestion that they might be preparing for a new life is allegorical.

The Pregnant Tree (image supplied)

Lia Kemmis also has contributed a wonderful installation. Placed in a corner of the gallery, it is in effect the corner of a room in a home. There is a “wall-hanging”, a framed canvas on a wall, a table covered with a satin cloth featuring a digital print, and a chair with another satin cloth image embellished with fake fur on which are containers of numerous small prints. The only thing missing is a second chair on which visitors might sit to enjoy the corner.

Emily Blenkin has based the titles of her works on that old cliché “a picture tells a thousand words”. In fact, each work comprises three separate images, so I found myself asking how many words were actually told by the individual pictures?

The artists not mentioned here have also each made contributions which enhance  the exhibition.

This review was first published on 27.09.22 by The Canberra Times online here and on page 10 of Panorama in their print paper on 1.10.22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews

Aftercare, I am that I am, Transcending bodies

Photography Exhibition Review

Prue Hazelgrove | I am that I am – a deconstruction 

Emily Portmann | Aftercare

Xi Li, Meng-Yu Yan and Joseph Blair | Transcending bodies

Photo Access | 11 August to 10 September 2022

Across the three gallery spaces, these exhibitions come together to de-construct traditional ideas of identity and interrogate ideologies of self that exist within society. Each exhibition employs distinct methods in exploring societal definitions of self, suffering, and gender nonconformity.

Bringing tintype and collage processes into conversation, Prue Hazelgrove’s I am that I am – a deconstruction examines histories of queer visibility and erasure. The artist says she “is attempting to transform harm into healing through representation and reclamation.”

Hazelgrove achieves her goals most successfully with her excellent well-constructed paper, photo and text collages. Close reading of each piece of text clipped from a Christian self-help book clearly reveals the story of each particular artwork. The act of having cut up the texts for use in the collages can be seen as having removed any sense of authority they may have had in the source book. Their use also brings vividly to mind the dreadful selective use of scriptural texts by those who have sought, and still do seek, to make people conform to their views of what is right or wrong.

Prue Hazelgrove, Too much Skin- I am that I am, 2022, paper, photo and text collage
Prue Hazelgrove, According to Gods design- I am that I am, 2022, paper, photo and text collage

A number of high-quality tintypes complement the collages, revealing with raw honesty the people portrayed. Using the tintype medium fits with its long-standing use for documentation and adds to the artist’s intention of reclaiming her right to “exist as I am”.

Prue Hazelgrove, Just a couple of good buds – I am that I am, 2022, Tintype

The catalogue for Hazelgrove’s exhibition also features a piece of fine writing by Emma Batchelor, a queer writer, award-winning author and dancer from Canberra. This piece, Ultra Visible, should be read intently.

In Aftercare, the artist, Emily Portmann, presents a video of her performance as she encases her head in a large pink roll of bubble wrap. Using a sheet of the same pink bubble wrap as the backdrop in the gallery for the video screen is a nice touch. The video is accompanied by a series of self-portraits taken during the performance, each exploring the emotional and psychological ideology behind self-care and wellbeing. In each of them her head has become a large pink cylinder. Hands explore this mysterious object, searching for something unknown to us. The catalogue suggests we are viewing an emerging parody of “a society in which fetishised notions of self-comfort, protection and healing coincide with the commercialisation of wellbeing.”

Emily Portmann, Aftercare, Action 7, 2021 , archival pigment print

Then there is a group exhibition by Xi Li, Meng-Yu Yan and Joseph Blair.  Transcending Bodies employs video, 3D animation, AI and printed photo-media to challenge normative ideas of identity and envision new forms of living in the virtual realm.

This exhibition explores how sense-of-self and social dynamics are shaped in virtual environments and brings into focus the possibilities and limits of existing online, untethered from our physical bodies. The catalogue speaks of the existence of hybrids of machine and organism being reality, drawing attention to the fact that many of us now have technological items implanted in our bodies functioning to keep us in better health – or even alive.

There also is a catalogue reference to the way so many of us use social media video games, phone Apps and other technological things on a daily basis, thus moving our physical selves into the virtual realm.

In his series Postcards from Hyrule, Meng-Yu Yan has taken the role of photographer within a virtual space. We see screenshots of this virtual world in a Game played during COVID-19 lockdown. They present as illusory or ghost-like landscapes, with an apparition here and a luminous nebula there. They are printed on a metallic gloss paper as postcards, suggesting they are souvenirs acquired from another planet. Each artwork is a worthy inclusion in the show.

Meng-Yu Yan, Postcards from Hyrule 5, 2021, inkjet print on Ilford Metallic gloss

Joseph Blair contributes two diptych works from a series The Tongue of Missing Lovers. Each comprises a photographic portrait accompanied by words about the subject and expressing a feeling about that person. They have an emotional impact if we allow it.

Joseph Blair, A Much Larger Tip (From series The Tongue of Missing Lovers), 2022, inkjet prints, diptych

The third artist in the group is the interdisciplinary Xi Li. Here we see 8.5 minutes of  video, Brain Island: Hyperreal City. It is important to take a seat because the strong probability is that you will want to view it more than once. This is as fine a video artwork as I have seen. It draws you in, uncertain as to what you might come next. So much is happening all through this work that during each viewing you will observe something new.

Xi Li, Brain Island Hyperreal City, 2019, video still

Li has woven so many aspects of her own identity into this remarkable piece. She has inserted herself into the work utilising green screen compositing – a process of layering two images or video streams into one another. We see her various alter-egos and contradictory cultures, reflecting her lived experience under both Chinese and Western political systems.

These three exhibitions and their catalogues are each well worth visiting and spending time with.

This review was first published on page 18 of The Canberra Times of 5.9.22 and online here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews


Photography Exhibition Review


M16 Artspace, Gallery 2  | UNTIL 4 SEPTEMBER 2022

Lisa Stonham is a photo-media artist who lives and works in Gadigal Country/Sydney.

In her artworks she seeks to capture the temporary, ephemeral and momentary through the exploration of immovable man-made landscapes. She documents the ever-evolving relationship between light and time in the context of architectural space, to produce sensory and evocative colour field photographs.

Stonham’s work has been exhibited in various Australian galleries. In 2021 she exhibited in the Head-on Photo Festival Open Programme. She has been a finalist in numerous art prizes and awards including the Blake Prize, Iris Award, and CLIP Award.

The exhibition catalogue describes the artist’s work as “a concourse between documentary and abstraction. Although factual, her photographs are detached from physical or concrete reality and resistant to any narrative sense.” So, how can I describe the works in this exhibition if they are resistant to narrative?

In Conversations with My-Self and Others, the artist explores and exaggerates the tiny perfect moments … the ‘right now’ – that a more isolated and contemplative existence led her to appreciate. She has captured ephemeral and impressionistic moments within the context of the everyday. The resultant colour driven abstractions engage with the temporal nature of light and physical space. They involve the interpretation of light as gesture, everyday rainbows in the context of positive projections and articulation of colour experience in meditation and memory.

During the official opening, the works were described as extending from the usual photographic language to the painting language and particularly into abstraction in the way that photographic light can make us appreciate interior spaces but also remind us of reflective spaces within colour field painting. That is certainly one way of describing the works with words.

My first response when I began looking at the images was wow, look at those vibrant colours, that use of light, and those wonderful shadows. Then I found myself questioning whether some works were single images or composites. And one of the prints is quite small compared with all the others, so I was curious as to why that was the case and why it had been included in the exhibition.

Lisa_Stonham_Perfect Moment … Right Now (inYellow)
Lisa Stonham_Dopamine Rush_2021

Having an opportunity to speak with Stonham whilst standing in the middle of the gallery space enabled me to share my reactions, questions and thoughts with her – always a good way of getting further into the artist’s mindset and intentions. During the discussion, we were joined by another artist and listening to her comments and questions also added to my enjoyment of this show.

Lisa_Stonham_Everyday Rainbow (in Blue) 2021

The aforementioned small print Wayfinder was included because it works well with the larger one, Perfect Moment… Right Now, alongside it. The colours in the two works are the same delicious reds and greens. The small work is an archival pigment print mounted to aluminium, whereas the larger one is an eco-solvent print on solve glaze satin rag.

Perfect Moment…Right Now (in green) 2021 and Way-Finder 2021 (installation shot)

I was previously not familiar with eco-solvent inks, but limited research tells me they have their colours suspended in a mild biodegradable solvent, and they don’t contain as many volatile organic compounds. The eco-solvent prints in the show are vibrant – and it is okay to put water on them.

I also learned that Stonham had added separate images of shafts of light seen in her home to other images of pieces of walls, floors and other areas – also in her own home. The combinations work extremely well and are not at all obvious.

LisaStonham_Self-Talk (Chromatic Aberration)_2021

This is a colourful, absorbing and well-presented exhibition. Without objective context, the compositions and colour relationships have become subjects in themselves. No narrative is required to enjoy the works.

This review was first published on page 19 of the Canberra Times of 29.8.22 and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews

Reconstructed Landscapes 2022

Photography Exhibition Review

Reconstructed Landscapes 2022 | Emilio Cresciani

M16 Artspace, Gallery 1b | UNTIL 4 SEPTEMBER 2022

Emilio Cresciani is an artist living and working on Gadigal land (Sydney). He graduated from Sydney College of the Arts in 2012 in photo media and has been a finalist in numerous awards including the Earth Photo Award London and the Bowness Photography Prize.

In 2020 he was the recipient of a Dark Matter Residency at Canberra’s PhotoAccess. His works from that residency, exhibited with the title State of Change, explored the phenomenon of climate change by integrating the transformation of ice into water with photographic processes – photograms, recorded on photographic paper revealed what happened as blocks of ice melted. The images examined – literally, figuratively, and abstractly – human impact on Earth. My review at the time described them as spectacular.

Trees have long been an inspiration for artists, so it is not surprising to see another one responding to the fact that Australia has cleared nearly half of its forest cover in the last 200 years, resulting in habitat loss, extinction of native flora and fauna, rising salinity and 14% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Making it worse, in 2020 Australia was ravaged by bushfires and more forests were destroyed. There were increased calls for back-burning and land-clearing.

Cresciani’s artwork continues to explore the intersection between climate change and altered landscapes. He has a keen interest in objects, structures, and landscape in transition, and in particular the increasing number of ‘non-places’ that fill our environment. He started the project presented here before those deadly fires, deforestation already being a huge public issue.

The process for this new project by Cresciani again uses a photographic process, but quite a different one. This time, he took an analogue camera into numerous national parks to document forests in the Australian landscape at times when those parks were being quite traumatized by the disasters resulting from climate changes. Using a daylight-type high-image-quality colour reversal 4” x 5” film, he captured patterns of tree branches, bark and leaves, light and shade.

The artist then sliced the pieces of positive slide film into different shapes and sizes, like woodchips. The slices were rearranged into bold abstract compositions on a scanner and digital images created. Every piece of every photo was included in the abstract results – even the edges of the emulsion identifying the film type. The resultant works are also very different to the previous show mentioned earlier – but are equally effective and quite fascinating to look at. They need to be closely explored.

Emilio Cresciani. Blue Mountains National Park, 2021

Emilio Cresciani. Bongil Bongil National Park, 2021

The total exhibition is a wonderful and poignant set of works. What is on exhibition here is the trauma imposed on eco-systems essential to our lives. The billions of trees cut down annually are represented by these ‘photochips’, symbolising what we are doing to our natural environment. Cropping of film images would rightly be considered by many as an act of vandalism. Bold cutting of the images into numerous pieces represents the experienced trauma. Sliced – even shredded – in such a way that the film cannot be put back together in its original form is a clear metaphor shouting to us that, when the damage done to the forests is massive, regeneration is impossible.

Emilio Cresciani. Marrangaroo National Park, 2021
Emilio Cresciani. Royal National Park, 2021

By bringing what he describes as “these cut fragments” into an art gallery, Cresciani hoped to highlight the gap between the myth of the Australian bush and the real cost of our lifestyles. Sliced and cut, sawn and hacked, these images upset the perception of trees as beautiful, functional, replaceable. They are out of place, not as they should be. The artist has succeeded in his aim – Reconstructed Landscapes effectively highlights the costs of humankind’s failings.

This review was first published on page 19 of The Canberra Times of 29.8.22 and online here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews

Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize 2022

Photography Exhibition Review

Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize 2022 | Various artists

Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre | 9 July – 27 August 2022

For the third year in succession, a Canberran has won the MCPP. After Judy Parker won in 2020 and Ian Skinner in 2021, this year the first prize of $15,000 went to Sammy Hawker.

In his magazine Inside Imaging here, Will Shipton said “There must be something in the water around Canberra that feeds the conceptual photographic mind, as three of the four winners are from the relatively small capital city” and “The fourth MCPP is organised by the Australian Photographic Society (APS), an umbrella organisation for Australian camera clubs. The grand prize won by Hawker is an impressive $15,000 cash, making the MCPP a major Australian photo contest.”

I’ve previously reviewed two of Hawker’s recent exhibitions here and here. She works predominantly with film, often in close association with traditional custodians, and challenges the notion that a photograph constitutes the moment a camera shutter is released.

Sammy Hawker – Mount Gulaga, 2021

Hawker’s concept statement reads “This work was captured on 4×5 film looking out towards Mount Gulaga from the Wallaga Lake headland. I processed the negative with ocean water collected from site. When processing film with salt water the corrosive properties lifts the silver emulsion and the representational image is rendered vague. However an essence of the site is introduced to the frame as the vibrant matter paints its way onto the negative. A ghost of Gulaga looms behind the abstraction ~ felt rather than seen.”

Other Canberran finalists this year were Lyndall Gerlach, with two of her works, and Susan Henderson. Gerlach says, “For me, a good photographic image must always engage the viewer either emotionally or intellectually.” You can read more about Gerlach in another of my pieces here.

Lyndall Gerlach – Night City-ness #1, 2021
Lyndall Gerlach – Contemporary Lifestyle, 2021

This is Henderson’s first time as a finalist. Henderson believes photography is mostly about capturing the real and the now. She is “fascinated by the conjuncture of the two, the transient opportunity to record the light rather than the subject, to take advantage of nature and the built environment to photograph.”

Susan Henderson – Rain 2, 2021

At the opening, adjudicator Bill Bachman said “we were instinctively looking for images with a strong or original concept and superior execution, that in some way challenged our notions of normal. Happily, there were ideas, techniques and processes galore.”

Julie Williams had two works selected as finalists. Of them, Moth was given one of three Honourable Mentions. My first thought when I saw it was “bushranger”. Then I learned it is a reinterpretation of the life of the Lady Bushranger Jessie Hickman (1890-1936).

Julie Williams – Moth, 2022

The other HMs were works by Claire Conroy and Ben Blick-Hodge.

Claire Conroy – 35mm slide recovered in Lismore floods 2022
Ben Blick-Hodge – Soup’s up! 2022

At the opening I met two first time finalists Sue Gordon and Michael Shirley, both of whom were thrilled to have had their works selected. In his artist statement relating to his work, Rain, Shirley speaks of rain coming to take you, your life, your house, your possessions, your friends. The black and white artwork shows numerous people under umbrellas, almost obliterated by rain which he has deliberately exaggerated.

Michael Shirley – Rain, 2021

Gordon’s work is a self-portrait titled What’s hidden in shadows. It is a powerful bruised depiction of physical abuse once experienced, but no more hidden or excused.

Sue Gordon – What’s Hidden in Shadows, 2022

It was also great to see the work by Vicky Cooper and Doug Spowart – a concertina photo book – displayed on a shelf. This was the first year that anything other than 2 dimensional prints could be entered, so it was excellent that this work was a finalist.

Victoria Cooper & Doug Spowart – Desire Paths, 2022

All the finalists in the 2022 MCPP exhibition can be seen in a virtual gallery here.

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

Exhibition Review, Reviews


Photography Exhibition Review


ACT Hub, 14 Spinifex Street, Kingston | Until 25 June 2022

(By appointment or during theatre performances)

The Causeway Hall in Kingston is the oldest hall in Canberra and a listed item on the ACT Heritage Register. It was completed in 1926 with voluntary labour using materials provided by the Federal Capital Commission. The Causeway remains a distinct district within the suburb of Kingston, although now abutted by the foreshore development.

​For some time, the Hall served as Canberra’s principal place of entertainment. It was, variously, a picture theatre, a dance hall, a concert venue and a place where boxing matches were held.

​This year has seen the building transformed and, as ACT HUB, become a venue for independent theatre productions, such as Free Rain’s production of David Williamson’s Emerald City (8 – 25 June). It is also now presenting exhibitions of artworks, with this show by Jane Duong being the first.

Sunkissed is a modest exhibition. Modest in terms of artwork numbers and sizes. Modest in terms of the works being gentle, almost describable as quiet. They do not shout out for attention, but nevertheless encourage visitors in for a closer investigation of their contents. The venue itself is also modest – in terms of capacity and its somewhat understated décor in the particular area where the artworks hang.

Duong is a Canberra-based photographer with a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in photomedia, and a Diploma in Museums and Collections. Her previous photographic projects include Red Brick Road images from another important part of Canberra’s heritage – the Yarralumla Brickworks.

Red Brick Road was an exploration of the Brickworks architecture, landscape and objects and the use of photography to trigger, layer and construct memory. Duong’s works for that show combined film photography with Van Dyke Brown printing, allowing for the study and representation of time and the ephemeral nature of memory.

The heritage listing of the Causeway Hall makes it most appropriate that Duong has again used an old technique to explore and celebrate it and the nearby Jerrabomberra Wetlands. This time, however, the process is Cyanotype which dates back to the dawn of photography and was invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. Cyanotype prints are created with the use of a light-sensitive chemical mixture coated on paper, UV (or sun) light and water to develop and fix.

For heritage reasons, it is not possible to attach works directly to the walls as is a common practice today in many galleries. So all the works are framed. They look great hanging – from a “picture rail” – against a wall, the colour of which blends nicely with the frames and shows off the classic blue tones of cyanotypes.

Each one-off print in this exhibition has been handmade by Duong. Some have unique borders, some have been created with a negative contact sheet, while others have been dipped directly into Wetland waterways.

Several of the works show the Hall itself. Duong has created panoramas using her phone, distorting the building a little, and used software to make some adjustments. Then she has used an inkjet printer to create negatives of each finished image on A4-sized film and used those negatives to create her exhibited prints on cotton paper using the Cyanotype process.

Old Causeway Hall II_Jane Duong_2022

Other works show a nearby entrance to, and parts of, the Jerrabomberra Wetlands – which themselves include some important historic relics of early Canberra.

Jerra Wetlands_Jane Duong_2022
Biyaligee Boardwalk_Jane Duong_2022
Waterways_Jane Duong_2022

And then there are two very different works. These were made by placing the paper directly into Wetlands waterways. They are dark and moody images, which seem quite an appropriate way to show an underwater area. The resultant works allow viewers to consider for themselves just what they are seeing.

This review was published in The Canberra Times of 5/6/22 here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.