Exhibition Review, Reviews

Windows – Looking in & looking out

Review of Photography Exhibition

Windows – Looking in & looking out | Susan Henderson

Manning Clark House | 13 May to 8 June

Opening hours: Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays 11.00 am to 2.00pm

Canberra photographer Susan Henderson is exhibiting a selection of her work over the last two decades. It follows her interest in light and the camera’s capacity to capture a composition moment in time where light reflected or refracted, or a subject through a window creates a mood or memory. The selection of work comes from a wide geography. Some places are iconic and immediately identifiable, others recall the spirit of the moment.

What is a window? Is it that transparent panel on an envelope containing a bill? Is it a framed area on a display screen? Is it an opening in our home or office wall or our car? Are windows necessarily fitted with glass so we can see through them? Or should they be open so that we can hear sounds through them or feel the breeze? What difference, if any, does it make if there is a curtain or some other covering?

In her explorations here, Henderson is sometimes looking out through the glass of a window and other times showing us reflections. Some images are quite composed, others emphasise the shattering effect COVID had. A couple of double exposures record the atmosphere in Canberra City during COVID lockdown, emphasising chaos and disruption.

Some of the locations portrayed are immediately recognisable – the entrance to the National Gallery of Victoria, and New York’s One World Trade Center. Others are less recognisable, depending how well the viewer knows cities such as Paris and Madrid. You may not even recognise some Canberra locations because what is included provides no real clues.

This a modest selection of Henderson’s large body work during the years from 2006 to 2022. Early works are, perhaps, more straight forward. Later ones reveal that her interest has evolved from the directly representational to exploration of how the camera can capture unique moments in time.

In 2012, she visited Madrid and captured an image through a window of its citizens in the central area.  Bus shelters wait for passengers. Some pedestrians cross a road whilst others just stand around. The colours are subdued – in large part almost sepia. There is much to ponder.

5 p.m. Paseo del Prado – 2012 © Susan Henderson

In 2018, the window was closer – Melbourne’s much-loved glass panel where water flows over its surface creating a magnet for children (and many adults) to touch and peer into – and, of course, to photograph. Observing a young child passing the other side of the window, Henderson saw a metaphor for fleeting youth.

Fleeting Youth – 2016 © Susan Henderson

In 2018, she was again overseas. She visited the memorial plaza in Lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center twin towers once stood. The new tower, One World Trade, had just been completed and soared majestically above the precinct. Looking at the reflections in the glass towers she saw a haunting vision of New York. 

New York, New York – 2018 © Susan Henderson

Then came COVID. Like various other photographers, me included, Henderson wandered through deserted streets and shuttered businesses seeing and creating images. Finding some inverted stools in a closed business, she saw them as emblematic – a traditional distress signal in a flag and representational of the deserted restaurant. This is what photography is about – not just looking but seeing.

Lockdown – Canberra City 2020 © Susan Henderson

As Sydney emerged from its final COVID lockdown, Henderson was there and saw, in some “unbalanced” reflections, a symbolic representation of the impact the lockdown had had on that city. Looking at her capture later, she realised there was no human presence whatsoever.

Beyond Covid , Sydney 2022 © Susan Henderson

Henderson says she likes her images to speak for themselves and also to leave details that the viewer can explore and return to over time. That they most certainly do, so she is delivering what she has said.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times on page 11 of Panorama on 20/5/23. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews


Review of Photography, Videography, Text Exhibition

Haunting | Vic McEwan

National Museum of Australia | 23 Feb – 30 Apr 2023

Vic McEwan was National Museum of Australia (NMA) 2015 artist-in-residence. He created this exhibition’s large-scale still photography and video works in collaboration with curator George Main.

McEwan is a contemporary artist with a deep interest in the ethics involved in making artistic work relating to the lives of other people. His rich, and most successful, practice has nourished broad cross-sector conversations about the role that arts can play within communities. He was the recipient of the Council for the Humanities Arts and Social Sciences2018 Australian Prize for Distinctive work for another project –  which involved three years of creative research within hospital environments.

He has shared his project outcomes at such places and events as Tate Liverpool, the National Gallery of Lithuania and Australia’s Big Anxiety Festival (the biggest mental health and arts festival in the world). The Director of Australia’s National Institute for Experimental Arts, Jill Bennet, has declared McEwan’s outputs as ‘field defining work’ and ‘both intensely moving and inspirational’.

The aim of the project featured here was to “remove” objects from their cabinets and put them instead into “the active materiality of places connected to the stories of those objects”. During the cold of night, photos of museum objects, historic photographs and a time-worn map were projected across the Murrumbidgee River, onto drifting and swirling mist, fog, and campfire smoke.

Haunting comprises over 65 photographic works and 2 video works created during McEwan’s yearlong NMA residency. Touring the country since 2020, it explores the complex history of agriculture and land use in the Murray–Darling Basin. The tour has included the Blue Mountains and Burnie.

Key collection objects photographed and projected include prize-winning wheat samples collected at agricultural shows by Cootamundra district farmer James Hately and his son. There’s a stump jump plough used on a Canberra CSIRO research station projected onto Murrumbidgee River fog at Lambrigg.

NMA – Haunting: Stump-Jump Plough: Fog Murrumbidgee River at Lambrigg – stump-jump plough, light, projector, fog, archival pigment print

A historic photo of William Farrer, Fred Wills & Nathan Cobb was also projected on fog – at both Lambrigg and Narrandera.

NMA – Haunting: Farrer: Riverbank Murrumbidgee River at Narrandera – photograph, light, projector, fog, archival pigment print

Another projected photo is of the Dunn family farmers near Wagga Wagga. The back row folk seem to have shafts of light searching the skies above. Another, of the Sutton family, is projected onto both fog and campfire smoke. There is poet/activist Mary Gilmore and her typewriter, and a stack of wheat bags awaiting rail transport at Temora.

NMA – Haunting: Mary Gilmore 4: Fog and Smoke Murrumbidgee River at Lambrigg – photograph, light, projector, fog, smoke, archival pigment print
NMA – Haunting: Mary Gilmore’s Typewriter 1: Riverbank Murrumbidgee River at Lambrigg – typewriter, light, projector, fog, archival pigment print
NMA – Haunting: Wheat Bag 2: Fog Murrumbidgee River at Lambrigg – photograph, light, projector, fog, archival pigment print

Part of a letter from climate scientist Katrin Meissner expressing her concerns about climate change in 2014 is also projected – onto fog and smoke and also the riverbank. A video shares her concern that her children “won’t have the same quality of life that we had” for us to reflect on.

McEwan has said the exhibition offers a chance to reconsider the complex histories of museum objects. Reanimating then layering them back into the landscape using light, projection and natural elements, created the abstract images on display – looking as though they were painted with light into the landscapes.

This is not the first exhibition by McEwan of imagery using this approach. For Shadows and Consequences (Photo Access, 2020), he photographed animal specimens, also (mostly) from the NMA’s collection, and then projected his images onto diverse surfaces to create new imagery.

But this time we have images created in a landscape along a river we all know or, at least, have heard about. Some of us have camped or lived on its banks, many have been to country towns along the ’bidgee, even photographed the riverbank scenery. These haunting images challenge us to think again about the great river, and its place in both First Nations and European settlement history.

This review was fist published by The Canberra Times on page 10 of Panorama and online on 25/03/23 here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews

VIEW 2023

Review of Photomedia, Mixed media, Animation exhibition

VIEW 2023 | SEVEN ARTISTS (Emily April O’Neill, Aidan Gageler, Harry Merriman, Gabriela Renee, Aaron Sun, April Widdup and Chenfei Xiao)

Photo access | 2 Mar – 15 Apr 2023

The 2023 edition of VIEW (an annual exhibition celebrating emerging talent) delves into the themes of cultural identity and the queer body. Showcasing seven emerging artists from the ACT region, it includes a diverse array of multimedia installations, traditional and non-traditional photo media, and animation.

Each artist presents a personal exploration of self, drawing upon shared experiences and perspectives in social, digital, and environmental realms. PhotoAccess Director Wouter Van de Voorde says “Their work highlights the strength and diversity of emerging artists in our region, and we are thrilled to provide a platform for their voices to be heard.”

Multimedia artist Chenfei Xiao uses digital and augmented reality technologies. Here we see a discussion of a personal experience living as a queer Chinese Buddhist. The resultant three portraits fascinate us as we explore them, discovering features of that experience and delighting in Xiao’s various identities. I encourage you to spend time with these works before reading any explanatory material about them.

Chenfei Xiao, Guan Yin Help You (III), production still, 2022, augmented reality headset rendered images printed on gator boards, 59.4 x 84.1 x 0.5 cm

Aaron Sun is a new media and technology artist. Here he uses 3D modelling, virtual reality photogrammetry and more to create an excellent video work investigating racism in Australia. Watching it forces us to ask ourselves what we might do to remove our own biases.

Aaron Sun, White Australia 1 (still from video, provided)

Abstract artist Aidan Gageler works on film, but never uses a camera as part of the production process. Happenstance played a major role in determining the end product. The collection of six works here takes us through various senses, emotions and colours (or lack of). Our responses to one work, Old Skin, will reflect how often we have each seen ageing skin in our long (or short) lives.

Aidan Gageler, Old Skin, 2022, dye sublimation on aluminium

Interdisciplinary artist Emily April O’Neill has viewed how today’s modern technology has affected our lives. How are our public and private lives being modified? Are our personal behaviours, our confidential communications and even what defines us as individuals being permanently transformed beyond recognition?

Emily April O’Neill, Between Bodies & Screens – interacting with installation image – by Maria Koulouris

Harry Merriman’s video artwork Landscape of Light explores physical space and investigates how the alteration of our rural environment through human impact then affects our sense of self. It invites us to consider how various things change our views of the landscapes we are amongst.

Harry Merriman, The Landscape of Light, 2019, Still from Video

Multidisciplinary artist April Widdup explores place and isolation from a queer perspective, focussing on their art’s potential to challenge. They are showing two pieces in memory of Queer lives lost to hate-crimes and suicide. These artworks use numerous materials, including recycled wood, mirrors, hot sculpted glass, LED lights, vinyl and laminated sheet glass.

April Widdup, You lived, and I will remember that (II) (detail), 2022, [In memory of Queer lives lost to hate-crimes and suicide], recycled wood, hot sculpted glass, monitor, mdf, laminated sheet glass, 94 x 141.5 x 163 cm.

Through their immersive installation pieces, Widdup and Gabriela Renee explore complex cultural and personal narratives and challenge critical thinking around identity, mobility, and place.

Gabriela Renee – Gedara Yanava Going Home – installation image by Maria Koulouris

There are points along our journey through this exhibition where we are invited to get down amongst the work, temporarily becoming part of it. Quite near the floor, I peered through a small hole and saw another face looking back at me surrounded by names, including Devanny Cardiel, a transsexual woman ambassador for the state of Guanajuato in Mexico, and Disaya Smith, the 36th Trans American killed in 2021.

Uncomfortably on my back, head inside a space, I immersed myself into Widdup’s everchanging scene. Looking at other visitors doing this, and doing it ourselves, adds an extra dimension to our experience.

Brian at View2023 © Robyn Swadling

This excellently curated (by Gabrielle Hall-Lomax) exhibition of diverse works, and accompanying publication, is challenging to think about. Leaving, I wondered how I’d review it. I needed some time to digest what I had viewed before writing this. The artists should be proud of their work and we should look forward to seeing each of them develop their art.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times on page 10 of Panorama and online on 25/03/23 here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

Exhibition Review, Reviews

Beyond the Material: at the Intersection of Glass and the Digital Image

Review of Photomedia-Glass Exhibition

Beyond the Material: at the Intersection of Glass and the Digital Image | Kate Baker

SCHOOL OF ART & DESIGN GALLERY, ANU | 10 Mar, 10.30am – 23 Mar, 3pm

Kate Baker is a Sydney-based artist whose contemporary practice merges photo, print and moving image technologies with studio glass.

Before graduating from the Glass Workshop at the Australian National University (ANU) School of Art in Canberra in 1999, Baker studied photography, printmaking and sculpture. In 2017, attracted by its practice-led approach to research, she returned to the ANU as a Higher Degree by Research Candidate, seeking to complete her Doctor of Philosophy and further develop her studio research in a critiqued setting. This is her PhD examination exhibition.

Like most parents, Baker photographs her children. She also videos and draws them. What makes her imagery better or different to those of our children playing on their trampolines? Baker clearly reflects on bonds formed between people. She also uses unexpected arrangements of the body. She sees the images being of abstracted universal people – placeholders for people. Or, if you prefer, metaphors. She sees bodies as containers for our inner feelings, thoughts and imagination.

Works from her Within Matter series explore the intersection between physical beings and the less tangible space of our subjective perceptions. Young figures are captured in various moments where the abstraction of their forms invites us to question where their physical bodies begin and end, and whether there are other dimensions also in that space.

Each artwork results from making ultraviolet flatbed digital prints on translucent panels of glass, then mounting them on architectural steel bases. The freestanding nature of the works allows light to pass through the imagery so they can be experiences more as sculptures than photographs.

Kate Baker – Within Matter 7 (side view cropped)

Unreal and evocative images, along with narratives, are fixed into layers of glass, mirror and, more recently, metal. Baker is closely examining the qualities of glass. Her themes explore the human environment – physical, psychological and emotional layers, inviting viewers to consider the relationship between us and our experiences.

Baker has been both a finalist and winner of national and international art prizes, including the 2018 Hindmarsh Prize, which recognises excellence in the field of Contemporary Art made primarily from glass. These are most definitely excellent Contemporary artworks.

Her research leading to this exhibition saw a reconfiguring of her existing studio practice. She used a broader interdisciplinary approach to explore the intersection of glass and the digital image, incorporating their relationship to light, space and time. Drawing from her own experience, Baker overlaid images, surface treatments and text. The use of highly personal text information, including years of her technical process notes, may initially strike us as ambiguous scribbles before we learn about the source material.

The reflective surfaces offer us opportunities to become actively involved in the works – for they change as we move around the gallery space. This is about how we co-exist and establish emotional ties, how our connections with others change as time passes. This would almost certainly be more pronounced if the lighting on the works was natural, rather than artificial, but it is clear, nevertheless.

Documentation Image 3 – Yun Ha-ANU
Documentation Image 1 (foreground Within Matter background Pulse) – Yun Ha-ANU

One rather special installation, Pulse, projects segments of video onto numerous hanging irregular shards of coloured glass. Distorted images of a performer slide across the glass. A soundtrack of hollow knocking suggests she is trapped inside the glass. Poetically exploring the grief of losing something, the human spirit and the physical boundaries of our bodies personal space, the slivers of glass capture the light and shadows within the installation like a crystalline wind vortex briefly paused.

Documentation Image 2 (detail of Pulse installation) – Yun Ha-ANU

Nick Mitzevich, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, has correctly said Baker’s work is a sophisticated resolution of the glass medium that feels entirely contemporary and rooted in the present.

This review was first published on page 12 of The Canberra Times print edition of 19/3/23 and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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, Reviews

A Lens on the Lake, & Kambah

Photography Exhibition Review

A Lens on the Lake | Andrea Bryant

Kambah | Louise Curham

Tuggeranong Arts Centre | 20 Jan – 24 Mar 2023

These two separate exhibitions are both outcomes of explorations by their respective artists.

A Lens on the Lake is a series of abstracted moments Andrea Bryant has gathered whilst exploring life around Lake Tuggeranong. Shot predominantly with an infrared converted digital camera, the surreal scenes are part of a broader project focusing on the health of Canberra waterways and their direct environments.

Kambah, by Louise Curham, is also part of a larger project that is ongoing.

She is interested in the history of Kambah and is making an online digital Kambah People’s Map. As she develops the map, Curham will include images and stories shared with her during public programs at the arts centre whilst the exhibitions are on display. Bryant is also conducting a workshop. Details of those events can be found at https://www.tuggeranongarts.com/whats-on/.

Bryant completed a Diploma in Photography and Photographic Imaging in 2019 at the Canberra Institute of Technology. Her practice focuses on the use of abstraction. Working primarily with black and white photography, she juxtaposes disregarded things with the natural world – thus reflecting on our penchant for destroying the environment.

Here Bryant shows us thirty-six framed fine art prints. Whilst most are black and white, a small number are vibrantly coloured. The images were developed over several years from meditative walks at Lake Tuggeranong, prompted by copious amounts of rubbish discarded in the area.

Amongst the subjects for Bryant’s camera are, inevitably, a shopping trolley and graffiti. But there is also the floating wetland’s structure, people relaxing, fishing gear, filaments, the skatepark, and a black swan. There are even images of Einstein and his “intelligent eye”.

Relaxing 1 © Andrea Bryant
Relaxing 2 © Andrea Bryant
Filaments © Andrea Bryant
Mimis © Andrea Bryant

Each walk taken uncovered new debris, different structures and diverse wildlife that Bryant has transformed through artistic use of infrared to shift the commonplace in a way that stirs curiosity. Largely stripped of context, the artist invites us to reconsider our relationship to what have become mysterious or puzzling forms within the landscape.

Floating Wetlands, 2021 © Andrea Bryant
Schism © Andrea Bryant

Tension between unpleasant dumped objects and the beauty found in their forms is intriguing. Bryant’s reframing draws us to reconsider how we move through our environment and the actions we take to pollute or restore it.

This artist is to be congratulated on this, her first solo show, and on the messages she has successfully conveyed.

Curham uses art, and archivist expertise, to explore how we can look after things we can’t digitise. She invites people to think about the wisdom accompanying things they want to keep and how it can be passed on. She focuses on old media and the lessons that can be learned from it.

Kambah, a suburb of Canberra first settled in 1974, was not designed according to the ‘neighbourhood’ philosophy guiding suburban design and is the largest in Canberra. It took its name from the once prosperous Kambah sheep and cattle farm. The property was sub-divided; Village Creek waterway went underground. Seeking to build community, Curham invites residents, alumni and visitors to select the contents of an archive about Kambah.

The exhibition displays a digital map built from the community’s answers to the question ‘what do you know about Kambah that you think is important to share with others?’ Alongside the map is a series of images of Kambah made using pinhole and cyanotype photography. Both processes have created very literal but diverse portraits of Kambah.

Kambah people’s map digital map – © Louise Curham
Urambi20 – © Louise Curham
Pinhole06 – © Louise Curham

The subjects include the historic Urambi Woolshed, the IGA, a bike, casuarinas, dusk (towards the Brindabellas) and cleared woodlands. It all makes for an intriguing show that gallery visitors should spend time with, especially Kambah residents.

Woolshed – © Louise Curham
IGA from Boddington – © Louise Curham
Clearing at Kambah – © Louise Curham

This review was first published online on 9.2.23 by The Canberra Times here and then in the printed paper on 13.2.23. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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

WE ARE ONE – The First XI

Photography Exhibition Review

WE ARE ONE – The First XI Claire Letitia Reynolds and Sasha Parlett

PhotoAccess | 20 Jan – 10 Feb 2023

Everyone should see this exhibition. All indigenous people, because it is about a significant event in their history. Cricketers and cricket lovers, as it’s a significant cricket story. Historians, since it’s a historical event. Photographers and everyone interested in the medium. And everyone else, as it’s a fascinating and important story.

The portraits in WE ARE ONE – The First XI were produced by artist Claire Letitia Reynolds, the filmed interviews by Sasha Parlett. Reynolds discovered her love of photography at 14. She is known for capturing subjects at their most familiar moments. Parlett is the proud descendant of the first Indigenous woman to break in horses, was born on Darumbal country and educated and raised in Kabi Kabi ways. Together, the two artists are aiming to champion this epic piece of Australian history.

Parlett’s two videos are a series of vignette interviews providing a documentary style look into the verbal history of cricket in Australia. Through discussions with descendants of The First XI, past and current First Nations Cricketers, a

light is shed on the truths and triumphs such cricketers have faced since The First XI. Highlighting a forgotten history of this colonial sport turning stockmen into athletes and becoming an iconic sport within First Nations communities. The exhibition aims to uplift and contribute to reconciliation in Australia.

Still from Part 1 – WE ARE ONE –The First XI – Uncle Adrian, Mununjalli, Goreng Goreng Nations, QLD © Sasha Parlett
Still of title page of Part 2 – WE ARE ONE – First Nations Cricket © Sasha Parlett

Reynolds’ artworks, created utilising analogue and digital processes, comprise twenty-two portraits and three landscapes referencing the unique connection between Australian Indigenous people, culture and Country. The First XI included men from tribes in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. The portraits are of current and past Indigenous Australian cricketers, direct descendants of the First XI, and Elders.

Incredibly, this indigenous team of thirteen athletes undertook Australia’s first ever international tour. It is a story of strength, triumph and, sadly, tragedy. Several players suffered severe illness. Some were sent home early; others lost their lives. Despite the tragic incidents, the ledger was 14 apiece at the end of the England-wide tournament.

This exhibition seeks to square up the Australian identity ledger, with these pioneering men providing impetus for progress. Their story of courage, resilience, and identity is celebrated with pride. The beautifully printed artworks from hand-developed films are mostly on fine art paper using handcrafted dyes from various trees, bark, leaves, and sap.

Rosie, Gubbi Gubbi Nation, QLD, 2022 photographic print on fine art paper with narrow-leaved Red Gum bark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds
Aunty Betty, Bundjalung Nation, NSW, 2022 photographic print on fine art paper with Brown Bloodwood bark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds
Uncle Mickey AM, Yawuru Nation, WA, 2022 photographic print on fine art paper with Brown Bloodwood bark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds

One large portrait, of Aunty Fiona Clarke, is printed on 100% pure mulberry silk and displayed hung on a found Eucalyptus branch.

Aunty Fiona Clarke, Gudintjimara, Kirre Whurrong Nations, VIC photographic print on 100% pure mulberry silk © Claire Letitia Reynolds (Installation view)

Three landscapes showing black swans are hung close together in a row alongside each other on an end wall of the gallery.

Black Swans of Gunaduyen, Home of The First XI, Parts 1,2,3 photographic prints on fine art paper with Grey Ironbark hand crafted dye © Claire Letitia Reynolds (Installation View)

Below each portrait are quotes from  ‘Cricket walkabout : the Australian Aboriginal cricketers on tour, 1867-8 / D.J. Mulvaney’. Part of one reads “Yanggendyinadyuk/Dick-a-Dick challenged all comers to stand 15 or 20 yards distant and pelting with cricket balls….protected his body with a [narrow wooden parrying shield]….during his displays he often called out to the throwers ‘Can’t you do better than that?’….His wooden club is now in Lord’s Cricket Museum.”

There is one other rather special exhibit – The First XI Didge-Bat, with the names of The First XI inscribed.

The project was previously exhibited briefly on the Sunshine Coast (where Reynolds is based). It opened here as a big bash cricket fixture next door attracted a huge crowd by comparison. Its run includes the contentious 26 January date. It will be going to the home of The First XI – Harrow, Victoria and elsewhere. It is hoped to show it at Lord’s. And, more importantly, I was pleased to learn there are folk seeking to have items such as the previously mentioned club returned to Country.

This review was first published by The Canberra Times here and in its print edition of 28/1/23. It 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.

Exhibition Review, Photo Book Review, Reviews

On the Western Edge: Witnessing Bluett’s 

Photography Exhibition (& Book) Review

On the Western Edge: Witnessing Bluett’s | Various artists

Manuka Arts Centre Gardens | 1 – 17 Dec 2022

The exhibition On the Western Edge: Witnessing Bluetts opened as a pop-up at Bluett’s Block on the evening of 1 December and I’m delighted that I managed to get there as it was well worth seeing. It is a group show (with an accompanying book) revolving around the eucalypt ecosystem of Bluett’s Block. A substantial number of other people also enjoyed walking around the exhibition looking at the prints mounted atop metal stakes pushed into the ground amongst the native grasses and colourful yellow flowers.

All Canberrans know that the Western side of the city has seen much, almost relentless, urban development over the past decade. As a result, habitats and ecosystems have been replaced by numerous newly developed roads, houses and other buildings. Bluetts Block is a natural area on the edge of this rapidly growing urban footprint. The site has been subject to various land uses over the years. Potential threats to it have prompted many Canberrans’ to push for the site’s protection.

Over ten months, seventeen photographers led by 2022 Dahl Fellow Dr David Wong, regularly visited the site to photograph the resident animals, plants, non-living things, and the ecological processes that shape the place. Each time they undertook their photo walks, another specialist also joined them to highlight their personal practice or background relating to the site. The purpose of the project was, and is, to raise awareness about the importance of Bluetts as a thriving eco-system worthy of protection, rather than urban development.

Folk at the opening, heard about the importance of Bluetts to local Indigenous people and of plans to seek the granting of Native Title over the A.C.T. to them. They heard impassioned words spoken by Jean Casburn, the originator of the Friends of Bluett’s Block. They heard about the importance of reconciliation.

Following the opening, the exhibition was moved to the gardens at the Manuka Arts Centre. Whilst that is different from viewing it at the location where the photographs were all taken, it is nevertheless an exhibition to be seen. The book, available for sale inside from Photo Access, includes numerous photos – some accompanied by text such as this haiku: “Capture and burn, Stop waging war on the forests, making the oxygen we breathe.”

There are photos of landscapes, kookaburra, orchids, sunsets, termite mounds, scribbly moth tracings, birds, fungi, grasses, canopies, native flowers, clouds, a red-headed mouse spider, and more. Jean Savigny has written about the perspectives of the project participants. About first impressions being visceral. About seasons and revelations. About personal learning and discovery. About field studies for a doctorate. About the 2,618 species that, so far, have been identified at Bluetts.

The Edge (Savigny), The Scars (Yasmin Idriss) and The Future (Scott Ferguson) include land clearing, roadworks and houses not far away – clearly revealing the sad future that could befall this piece of eucalyptus ecosystem.

Scott Ferguson – The future

Other images in both the exhibition and the book reveal the natural beauty and precious things that inhabit the area.

I particularly enjoyed Moving (Allen Bills), Exploring (Kristiane Herrmann) showing project participants doing just that, Scribbly Moth Tracing (Fiona Hooton), At Night (Mandi Bennett), Native Yellow Flower (Miriam Blackburn), and Lichens like rocks (Sarah Ryan).

Exploring by Kristiane Herrmann – installation shot at Bluett’s Block – Brian Rope

Allen Bills – Moving

Mandi Bennett – At Night

But every image makes a valuable contribution to the documenting of the many, and different, facets of this eco-system. Every participant and every other person involved in this project is to be congratulated.

If you wish to visit this beautiful place, the entrance to Bluett’s Block is just past Denman Prospect, off Uriarra Rd and right next to the Stromlo Forest West Carpark. The co-ordinates are: 35º17’57.3”S 149º00’35.2”E.

This review was first published online on 4/12/22 by The Canberra Times here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.