Acts of Co-Creation

Photography, Photoart Exhibition Review

Acts of Co-Creation | Sammy Hawker

Mixing Room Gallery | Until 2 July 2021

Sammy Hawker is a visual artist who was noticed early when one of her works was selected for the 2010 ‘Capture the Fade’ exhibition. Since then, Hawker has achieved a Bachelor of Visual Arts (First Class Honours), Sydney College of the Arts (2015), had a solo exhibition ‘Dieback’ (2019), participated in the ANU School of Art & Design Bundian Way Arts Exchange (2020), and received an artsACT Homefront grant to complete a body of work (2020). She is a current recipient of the PhotoAccess Dark Matter darkroom residency program, with an exhibition in the Huw Davies Gallery scheduled for late 2021.

The works in this exhibition have been created in Yuin Country, Ngarigo Country, and Ngunawal Country. Whilst visiting each site, Hawker took a few rolls of film and collected small samples of water, soil, eucalyptus bark and flowers. The show features a stunning collection of works employing pigment inks, emulsions and silver nitrate.

In her process statement for the exhibition, Hawker speaks of time defined by silences – whilst standing in a once-familiar landscape while the ash of a torched ecosystem floated through the air; looking in awe at critically endangered snow-gums; living alone in a city under global lockdown. She reveals that silences led her to practise more active listening; that the exhibition results “from recognising and celebrating the quieter but no less potent agency of the more-than human”.

Broulee Sunset © Sammy Hawker

Hawker also speaks of a newly formed relationship with Ngunawal custodian Tyronne Bell. As a non-Indigenous Australian, she reached out to Bell to learn more about the sites she was working with. Walking with him on Country helped her see more.

Dark Crystals © Sammy Hawker

For each print, we are told what indigenous land it was created on. There are a few traditional landscapes, some composites, and many that reveal their negatives having been processed in solutions that include a variety of waters containing diverse elements.

Murramarang NP #1 © Sammy Hawker

When processing films Hawker uses waters collected from the sites where the films were exposed. So, salt fractals form across works created with ocean water, whilst ripples appear on photographs developed with muddy lake water. Storm clouds photographed from Mount Ainslie were developed with rainwater that fell later that day.

Near Rosedale © Sammy Hawker

Experiments with the technique of chromatography add another aspect to the exhibition. Hawker mixed samples of matter with sodium hydroxide looking for the substance “to visually express itself over filter paper soaked with silver nitrate”. She says “Acts of Co-Creation are never predictable, and the resulting images can be both unsettling and thrilling. To me the image becomes alive; humming with the presence of the site itself.”

Scribbly Gum Bark Chromatogram © Sammy Hawker

Much background information is provided – about snow gums being affected by dieback; about how and why a water bowl tree was created to store water.

A centrepiece of the exhibition, Ngungara (Lake George) #1, was taken after rains had temporarily filled the lake. Ngungara means ‘flat water’ and the lake is a significant site for the Ngunawal. From a roll of medium format film, it was processed with a jar of muddy water collected from the edge of the lake.

Ngungara (Lake George) #1 © Sammy Hawker

Also displayed is a collection of the bottled waters, plus seaweed film developer and such things as casuarina pods, ground up bark and lichen. It is an excellent exhibition where I spent a lot of time taking it in. I was delighted to see that many works had been sold, some of the proceeds benefitting Aboriginal corporations in the Yuin, Ngarigo, and Ngunawal Countries. I congratulate the purchasers and Hawker, and strongly recommend readers to visit this exhibition.

This review was first published in The Canberra Times here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.



Photographic Art Exhibition Review

Connections | Various Artists: Alan Charlton, Alan Pomeroy, Andrea Bryant, Andree Lawrey, Ann Gibbs-Jordan, Anne Eldridge, Barb Smith, Brenda Runnegar, Brian Rope, Caroline Lemerle, Chris Holly, Dorothy Zenz, Eva van Gorsel, Geoff Meers, Helen McFadden, John Forsey, Judy Parker, Julie Garran, Louise Bagger, Margaret Stapper, Marion Milliken, Matt James, Michael N King, Nicky Bazley-Smith, Pam Rooney, Paul Carpenter, Phil McFadden, Sheila Lunter, Steven Shaw, Susan Henderson, and Tongbo Sun.

M16 Artspace | 21 May – 6 June

Disclaimer: the author of this review has two works in the exhibition but received no payment for the review.

This is the first exhibition presented by Canberra PhotoConnect, a relatvely new group. The catalogue tells us The strange events of recent times have reminded us how important it is to stay connected with each other, family and places. Visitors to the gallery are invited to celebrate the diversity and joy of connections.

It is difficult to individually comment on all 66 works in the exhibition, so I will not try to; rather, I will look at particular works that attracted my attention for various reasons.

Louise Bagger’s Portrait of Joshua is a very fine portrait. It is intense, dark and moody all at once. There is an obvious connection between subject and artist.

Louise Bagger – Portrait of Joshua

Helen McFadden’s artworks combining photgraphs with scans of sketches are beautifully created and enhanced by being their printing.

Helen McFadden – Gloriosa study

Nicky Bazley-Smith’s Rhythm of the Trees is delightful with four well-placed humans in a beautiful landscape photographed when the lighting effectively brought out the textures and forms before a brooding sky.

Nicky Bazley-Smith – Rhythm of the Trees

Judy Parker’s Burning is richly coloured leaving us in no doubt that we are viewing, and connecting with, a representation of fire even if we are unsure of what she actually has photographed.

Judy Parker – Burning

Julie Garran’s black and white Children Play images are powerful. The boy child at play shots are quite disturbing as he holds and “uses” a powerful-looking toy (hopefully) weapon. The connections between play and real world are clear.

Julie Garran – Children Play II

Eva van Gorsel’s De-Constructed series are further fine examples of this talented artist’s works.

Eva van Gorsel – DeConstructed IV

Caroline Lemerle’s Monaro in drought 2019 is displayed in between two of Margaret Stapper’s images. The three work well together and portray aspects of connections to the rural landscape.

Caroline Lemerle – Monaro in drought
Margaret Stapper – ‘Disconnected’, Coleambally, NSW

Marion Milliken shows just one work, Jeffrey Smart Space. She has not copied, or even imitated, Smart, but has perhaps paid some small personal homage to him by creating a work that “connects” to his.

Marion Milliken – JeffreySmart Space

Steven Shaw’s images from Kolmanskop, a tourist destination ghost town in the Namib in southern Namibia, are worthy contributions. The broken foot in particular is worth contemplating with respect to the connection between the bathtub and the painting on the wall above it.

Steven Shaw – Kolmanskop – The broken foot

Susan Henderson’s Autumn leaves, 2020 is a clever work, showing the fallen evidence of the season on a patchwork of pavers enhanced by colourful art. There is an interesting connection between the colours of the various elements in the artwork.

Susan Henderson – Autumn Leaves

Barb Smith’s somewhat mysterious red, blue and green Mythologies series provides a connection with past technologies, as they are Inkjet prints made from scans of C41 photographs.

Barb Smith – Mythologies II Life

Phil McFadden’s Stone Pull, Hornbill Festival, Nagaland India, 2017 is a successful image – colourful and eye catching (and used for the exhibition’s publicity). But I felt that most of the people in it showed only minimal connection with the photographer.

Phil McFadden – Stone Pull, Hornbill Festival, Nagaland, India

Dorothy Zenz’s Classic is an interesting composite of several images, at least some of which relate to love. It is worth contemplating to see what connections you as the viewer can make to its elements.

Dorothy Zenz – Classic

Alan Pomeroy’s Skyscape Sculpture shows a very colourful sculpture overlaid on a colourless cloudscape. The connection is not clear to me, but the resultant artwork is good.

Alan Pomeroy – Skyscape Sculpture

Ann Gibbs-Jordan has explored the sense of place in two fine monochrome works, each comprising two juxtaposed scenes.

Ann Gibbs-Jordan – Sense of Space II, Mound Spring, SA and near Bedourie, Qld

Brenda Runnegar’s two works are clever composites of photographic images with scanned artworks.

Brenda Runnegar – Fleur

Visit the exhibition to see all the works and make your own connections.

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



Photography Exhibition Review

Hot/Cold | Various Artists: Abby Ching, Alan Charlton, Amanda Pratt, Andrea Bryant, Andrew Morgan, Bailey Corazza, Brian Rope, Caroline Lemerle, David Bermingham, Eva Schroeder, Fiona Bowring-Greer, Ian Russell, Jane Duong, Jenny Dettrick, Jordan Stokes, Kathy Leo, Marie Lund, Trevor Lund, Marzena Wasikowska, Richard Glover, Susan Henderson, Tessa Ivison, Virginia Walsh, and Yvette Perine.

Photo Access | 13 May – 5 June

Disclaimer: the author of this review has two works in the exhibition but received no payment for it.

Each year PhotoAccess invites entries for a members’ exhibition. The 2021 show Hot/Cold sought responses to the idea that we have entered a time of extremes – seasonal, climactic and perhaps emotional. It complements two other solo exhibitions simultaneously in the gallery, both tackling climate transformation issues: Avalanche by Sari Sutton which looks at seasonal variations producing snow, and Black Summer 2020: the Aftermath by Ben Kopilow which explores landscape after that Black Summer. Those other shows have been reviewed separately here.

All PhotoAccess Members were welcome to submit up to two entries. All entries meeting the submission criteria were included in the gallery exhibition and an online gallery. Works were able to be in any photographic medium but could not have been previously exhibited in a solo or group exhibition. Amongst the mostly inkjet, digital and Type C prints, it was particularly good to see a sun print on silk by Virginia Walsh, Giclee prints by Andrea Bryant, liquid silver gelatin prints on plates by Jane Duong, Polaroid instant film works by Jenny Dettrick, and a resin coated darkroom print by Abby Ching. This demonstrates that PhotoAccess is supporting a wide range of contemporary photo-media practices.

It was also great to see Susan Henderson providing some poetry for the catalogue entry about an image of little girls waiting for ice-cream on a hot day whilst the air was filled with smoke and embers:

Baking heat of day

Azure sky, breathe in, breathe out

Ancient time and place

The exhibition catalogue tells us that “Each twelve months journey around the sun brings us the glorious change of the seasons, from the basking heat of January to the frozen breath of July, and all the shades between. But recently, this variation seems to have grown more intense, bringing devastating bushfires, an unusually cool, rainy summer and a shrinking snow season.”

“This disorder re-shapes our world and our lives, changing the plants and animals around us, provoking us to build new places to live and altering how we spend our days. These changes also impact how we feel about ourselves and participate in our relationships, alternately separating us from and bringing us closer to each other.”

So, the question is: what does it mean to be Hot/Cold? In my view not all works have addressed that question. On the other hand, some have looked at the question in innovative ways.

Amongst the most interesting works are those by Jane Duong, Andrea Bryant and Jenny Dettrick. Duong’s because they are on circular plates and their exploration of the ideas of home, dreams and memory makes the viewer think about their relationship to the theme. Bryant’s because they are Giclee prints of destructive cyclical algae events.

Jane Duong – Heart aches for home, 2020
Andrea Bryant – Blue-Green Dreaming 2, 2020

Dettrick’s works are, perhaps, the cleverest response to the Hot/Cold theme. One of her Polaroids was developed above a sizzling hot frypan and the other was placed under ice in a freezer for 30 minutes.

Jenny Dettrick – Of Fire, 2021

Tessa Ivison’s digital prints resulted from long exposures combined with movement as a way of interpreting her environment.

Tessa Ivison – Atmos, 2020

Eva Schroeder has created her image using, as her subject, a woman who has lived through the extremes of 2020 with serious underlying health conditions whilst using a deep love of performance art to create an adventurous life.

Eva Schroeder – The Phoenix, 2020

One of the best-known of the exhibitors is Marzena Wasikowska. Her landscape is a response to our environmental predicament.

Marzena Wasikowska – The Gap, 2020

This, and the accompanying, exhibitions are well worth visiting.

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



Exhibition Review – Photography, Visual Art

Luminosity | Angela Stankovic, Anne Fulker, Diana Davidson, Kalpana Choudhary, Karen Silsby, Lois South, Margaret Kalms, Maria Cofinas, Pauline Mager, Richard Lamond, Robyn Diener

Strathnairn Arts | Until 30 May

Belconnen Artists Network (BeAN) is a diverse, enthusiastic and skilled group of artists. Their artistic skills and techniques mirror individual different life experiences. They include, including many art forms.  

Luminosity is intended to reflect what life is about. Both the lighter and darker moments of our lives enable us to explore their meanings, to  illuminate our souls. Luminosity is associated with atmospheric changes of light, the emission or reflection of light, and exposure to light. It reveals things. It shows us what we otherwise might not see. It emphasises shapes. It creates moods. It enables artists to unite points on the picture plane, to create focal points, or allow a shadowy background to subsume the rest of a scene.

Photography has often been described as painting with light. But it is all artists, not just photographers, that explore light and transfer the colours and moods it creates to whatever canvas is their medium.

This exhibition expresses Luminosity through a myriad of interpretations revealing how we are inspired by nature and the human experience. On exhibition are 44 varied works – and two books that are also available for purchase. The varied works include photographs, photoart, digital prints, photography on transparent film, acrylics, oils, and mixed media – including fibres and embroidery.

Margaret Kalms has held solo exhibitions in Canberra, Sydney, Manchester and London and has had her work exhibited in Halifax in Canada and The Louvre in Paris.  Her photo-artworks portraying the colours of endometriosis and pelvic pain are strong and vibrant, conveying a powerful message. This is an ongoing interest of Kalms, who is a strong advocate for action and assistance for women suffering endometriosis, an insidious women’s reproductive disease that can cause debilitating pain and infertility. She is a campaigner for funding of research, and for better treatments. Her book Life with Endometriosis is one of those on display and in the shop.

Margaret Kalms – Colours of Endometriosis Pain – Image 11 – med – Photoart
Margaret Kalms – Colours of Pelvic Pain – Image 8 – A3 – Photoart

Kalms shows other luminous works too.

Margaret Kalms – Once in a Blue Moon med – Photo
Margaret Kalms – Worship in Colour 6868 med – Photoart on transparent film

Both Maria Cofinas and Angela Stankovic have oil on canvas works that are very bright in their colours.

Demeter – Goddess of the Cycle of Life is Cofinas’s effective interpretation of the Greek goddess of the harvest.

Maria Cofinas – Demeter-Godess of the Cycle of Life SM – Acrylic on Canvas

Stankovic’s Coastal Dreaming includes a female figure immersed in a coastal setting – sea, sand, shells and more.

Angela Stankovic – Coastal Dreaming – Oil on Canvas

You do not need to be told what Stankovic’s Black Summer is about. It does not horrify in the way that photographs and videos of the fires did at the time, but effectively portrays fire in a bush setting.

Angela Stankovic – Black Summer – Oil on Canvas

Karen Silsby is exhibiting works using mixed media and acrylics on canvas; the latter including 100 Days in a pandemic showing many different subjects combined to create a colourful portrayal of what she might have seen or thought about during that period. It is interesting to think about our own experiences, thoughts or dreams during whatever lockdown period we might have had.

Karen Silsby – 100 days in a pandemic – acrylic on canvas – 40x60in

Anne Fulker shows us various digital prints. These include a calming monochrome print of ferns, Candentis, taken using an infrared filter.

Anne Fulker – Candentis SM – Digital Print

Another Fulker work , Unclear, is very different. We glimpse people. Where they were and how she was seeing them is not clear, but that is not important as the strength lies in the mystery – conveyed by the textures, shapes, and patches of colour.

Anne Fulker – Unclear P1080359 SM – Digital Print

Robyn Diener’s Fire and Ice pieces using mixed media, Tyvek and embroidery are simply lovely artworks.

Robyn Diener – Fire and Ice 2 – Mixed fibres, Tyvek, embroidery

Pauline Mager’s acrylic work, Yesterday, is another to spend time exploring with its diverse elements – partly filled wine glass, burning candle, remnants of dinner, ashtray with butts, and oldish mobile phone.

Pauline Mager – Yesterday – Acrylic

Other artists and their works not mentioned here are also worthy participants for visitors to enjoy.

This review has also been published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.


Avalanche. Black Summer 2020: the Aftermath.

Photography Review

Avalanche | Sari Sutton

Black Summer 2020: the Aftermath | Ben Kopilow

Photo Access | Until 5 June 2021

These exhibitions tackle climate transformation issues. Sari Sutton looks at seasonal variations producing snow. Ben Kopilow explores landscape after 2020’s Black Summer. A concurrent Photo Access members’ exhibition complements those by Kopilow and Sutton.

In Avalanche, Sutton shows us seasonal variations producing snow. In Black Summer 2020, Kopilow shows the aftermath of fire. Both are about climate transformations. Both display vivid extended landscape photography, relating to this time of extremes.

Set amidst the dramatic Mt Kosciuszko region, Sutton’s work explores the unfamiliar psychological features of our world’s landscape as altered by the pandemic and global warming. The rapid changes to climate along with COVID-related events, coming to a head in 2020, have forced a rethink of how we live with the natural environment. These images reflect on the fragility and transience of what we may have taken for granted.

Coconut triple choc-chip © Sari Sutton

Dr. Kirsten Wehner, PhotoAccess Director, says: “one of our most exciting early-mid career ACT photo-media artists, turns traditional landscape photography on its head, contesting the separation of viewer from scene and presenting a challenging feminist perspective on the raw, unforgiving country of the Australian Alps.”

Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of white and black in these images; but a number of them include significant splashes of colour, particularly yellow. Interestingly, in her catalogue essay Surviving an Avalanche, Ellis Hutch says “Each time I drive up into the high country I have a bodily reaction at the point the road markings change from white to yellow. I take a breath, we are here, at the place where the snow will cover the road, where we need the yellow to mark the way.”

A simple image of a black and yellow sign before a snow-covered landscape and titled Hazard powerfully conveys just that.

Hazard © Sari Sutton

A shot of a red pole covered with lichen against a dark sky and titled Stop. Don’t. Come back. is equally strong.

Stop. Don’t. Come back. © Sari Sutton

Master AIPP Photographer Ben Kopilow has explored environmental damage resulting from the 2020 bushfire season in ACT/NSW. He has focused on the disturbing beauty resulting from fires and beautiful signs of hope in the way the bush recovers.

Blackened sentinels © Ben Kopilow

For Kopilow, “The only thing constant is change. The landscape of our treasured national parks and our connection to them seems so fixed, permanent, and immutable, yet it is constantly changing ever so slowly.” He highlights the starkness of newly revealed vistas, plus the physical and environmental damage done to native flora. His works serve to remind us that out of ashes comes new growth, renewal, and even beauty. He believes – and I agree – that no matter how bad things get, nature has a way of recovering, and so, in turn, does the human spirit.

Scorched earth near Gibraltar Falls © Ben Kopilow

In his catalogue essay, Doug Spowart reveals that he “wondered whether we were emotionally ready to relive THAT inferno through more documentary photographs?” After considering the question and the work, he was reminded of the role of photography to witness and share a story. He notes that this exhibition is the story of transient moments captured just after the fires. And that, even as we view the exhibition, the landscape has changed yet further.

I too had wondered whether I needed to see yet another exhibition about fire and drought – or the impact of the pandemic. But, before reading the titles or the catalogue or the words on the gallery wall, as I first looked into the gallery space I simply saw, and was impressed by, stunning colourful landscapes. They just happened to have been taken in the aftermath of the savage fires.

Autumn rebirth at Blowering Dam © Ben Kopilow

This review was published in The Canberra Times on 22/5/21 here. It is also published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.


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

Photography, Visual Art – Review

Building Blocks | Sarah Annand

Super Sport Sunday | Thomas Lord

Altering the Edges | Ellen Dahl

Photo Access | Until 8 May 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Annand, HC Shadow Studies – 2, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photography Exhibition Review


FYREGALLERY, Braidwood | Until 30 April 2021

All serious Australian photographers, and lovers of photography, know about Olive Cotton and Max Dupain. They know about their relationship. They are familiar with much of their work, particularly the famous images. They have probably read some books about one or other or both of them. If not, I heartily recommend the 2019 biography Olive Cotton, A Life In Photography by Helen Ennis. It tells much about Dupain as well as Cotton.

For everyone who appreciates the works of these two pioneering Australian photographers, this exhibition provides a great and joyful opportunity to see 39 of their images displayed in the one place. In addition, the quality of the silver gelatin photographs on display is excellent.

The exhibition catalogue, reproduces FYREGALLERY’s Manifesto for the Arts, quoting Rosamund Stone Sander & Benjamin Sander, ‘Art is ….. about rearranging us, creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings….’. That may be somewhat too esoteric with respect to this exhibition. These works mostly do not create surprising juxtapositions. They do not rearrange us. In my view they are, for the most part, straight forward images.

Cotton’s half of the exhibition includes some excellent nature imagery, such as her exquisite Seed Head, 1990. Also on show is the beautifully detailed photograph – Skeleton Leaf, 1964. The former is in the collection of the National Library of Australia, the latter in the National Gallery of Australia.

Olive Cotton – Seed Head, 1990, Silver gelatin photograph © Josef Lebovic Gallery
Olive Cotton – Skeleton Leaf, 1964, Silver gelatin photograph © Josef Lebovic Gallery

There are various delightful portraits, including the wonderful Only To Taste The Warmth, The Light, The Wind, in which the model’s face says it all – we know immediately what she is experiencing. The title is a line from a poem ‘O summer sun’ by English poet Robert Laurence Binyon.

Olive Cotton – Only To Taste The warmth, The Light, The Wind, 1939, Silver gelatin photograph © Josef Lebovic Gallery

Bright Cloud, 1939 is another highlight, portraying exactly that beyond the crest of the road ahead.

Olive Cotton – Bright Cloud. 1939, Silver gelatin photograph © Josef Lebovic Gallery

There is also the superb abstract Moths On The Windowpane taken in 1985 when Cotton was 84 years old. The Ennis biography mentioned earlier suggests Cotton ‘would have thought about it for a long while, watching and waiting’. Most of us would not do so – we would either just grab a shot or, at most, take a little time to frame our composition.

Dupain’s half of the show includes several from his Shell Series, printed very small and displayed in much larger mattes. It is a matter of individual preference as to whether one likes small artworks framed this way. Those who want something larger can find these images on websites by searching for Dupain’s name and their titles.

There are also various images of Sydney landmarks, one of performers with the Ballets Russes, and one of his fashion shoots – titled Beach Fashion Shoot, 1938.

Max Dupain – Beach Fashion Shoot, Cronulla, 1938, Silver gelatin photograph © Josef Lebovic Gallery

And there is Two Girls At Bowral [Olive Cotton and Jean Lorraine], 1939. It is a nice touch to have a Dupain image of Cotton included in the show.

Max Dupain – Two Girls At Bowral [Olive Cotton and Jean Lorraine], 1939, Silver gelatin photograph © Josef Lebovic Gallery

It is interesting to read when the images were taken and when they were printed. In many cases we are told who signed the prints – mostly by Dupain’s son Rex, or Cotton’s daughter Sally. And we read where copies are held and used as illustrations in Ennis’ two books about Cotton. Having received a copy of the 2019 biography as a gift last Christmas and read it earlier this year, this exhibition provided me with a most timely opportunity to further enjoy the works of these two iconic photographers.

It is well worth the drive to Braidwood for Canberrans to see these works in a modest gallery in that historic country town. A day out to see the exhibition and enjoy some of the other delights nearby is a day well spent. FYREGALLERY is to be congratulated on arranging to show these works in association with Sydney’s Josef Lebovic Gallery.

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


The Sweet Forever, and A line of best fit

Photography, Photomedia, Mixed Media – Review

Tina Fiveash | The Sweet Forever

Deirdre Pearce | A line of best fit

ANU School of Art & Design Gallery | Until 8 April 2021, Tue-Fri 10.30AM–3.00PM

These two exhibitions are each part of Higher Degree by Research programs being undertaken by the artists.

Tina Fiveash engages in multiple forms of contemporary photomedia including still and moving-image photography, anaglyptic (3D) and lenticular photography.

In The Sweet Forever, Fiveash has explored how photography might inform a re-imagining of death. Promotional material for this exhibition reveals that her personal investigation of death and dying through photography is paralleled with a text-based investigation of wider understandings of death in our society through the personal letters of a diverse range of people in her community.

What is death? What happens when we die? Fiveash invited fifty Australians to write a letter responding to those two questions. Digitised forms of their letters are on a website. The exhibition includes a large print, being a grid of portraits of contributors, with a QR code link to the website. Taken together, both Fiveash’s creative visual practice and her work with people’s letters, form a contribution to the field of death studies. Quotes from some letters included in the exhibition notes are very moving.

Equally moving is a series of large images printed with pigment inks on cotton rag. I saw powerful stories about love in each image. Twin Spirit, 2013  was the winner of the People’s Choice Award in the 2013 Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture.

Tina Fiveash, ‘Twin Spirit, 2013’, Pigment ink on cotton rag, Courtesy the artist

There are two fine triptychs. One reveals a wonderful story about the Hereafter; another gives us delicious blue views of water and sky.

Tina Fiveash, Wide Blue Yonder II, 2014-16. Pigment ink on cotton rag mounted on gataboard, Courtesy the artist

Fiveash told me that discoveries have emerged through scientific and technological innovation in resuscitation, blurring boundaries between life and death. Through creative practice she has explored how photography in the wake of digital transformation might inform a contemporary re-imagining of death and dying. Her constructed images using words from songs and poetry on ‘billboards’ against carefully chosen backgrounds are both beautiful and thought-provoking. One quotes a well-known gospel song There’s a land beyond the river, the lyrics of which include the words ‘the sweet forever’ – the title of the exhibition.

Tina Fiveash, ‘See you on the other side, 2014’, Pigment ink on cotton rag, Courtesy the artist
Tina Fiveash, ‘We Are Stardust, We Are Golden’ 2014, digital photograph, Pigment ink on cotton rag, Courtesy the artist
Tina Fiveash, ‘there is a light that never goes out, 2016-19’, Flip-lenticular photograph, Courtesy the artist

Dierdre Pearce works with drawing, photography, sculpture and installation. In A line of best fit there are three excellent mixed media works.

Pearce is interested in how people interact with the various space types we inhabit, and how we map the boundaries between interior and exterior worlds. She enjoys exploring how technologies influence her experiences and sense of self, focusing on developing visual metaphors for the relationship between the physical self and its growing digital presence.

Her research starting point was the growth of global human-machine networks and the significance humans place on participation in them. This practice-led project investigates how negative space might be used as an analogy for non-machine interactions, which are data-silent yet influence global networks in which humans and machines operate.

Experiments took place through a series of site-responsive installations assembled from everyday materials. Different approaches to describing personal experience were tested, including unusual forms of data visualisation and development of digital and physical ‘windows’ through which audiences could engage with the work.

One work here re-imagines Pearce’s study during the pandemic. It contains a wonderfully vibrant and diverse collection of found and acquired objects that visitors could wander amongst for a long time – irrigation pipe, cable ties, shopping dockets and photographic documentation.

‘A line of best fit’ (installation view) 2020, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photograph Brenton McGeachie

Another work includes yarn, polyester, video documentation and found objects.

‘I am here, I am here, I am here’, 2020, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photograph Dierdre Pearce

The third is a video; both it and the yarns feature ‘dots’ – we see them on screen as when locating a place via maps, and in very colourful woven forms of varying sizes determined by how long Pearce spent at particular locations.

This review was published in the Canberra Times on 5/4/21 here. It is published also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.


Habitat: Ways of living

Visual Art Exhibition Review

Various Artists: Alex Asch, Burchill/McCamley, Miriam Charlie, Sean Davey, David Flanagan, Michal Glikson, Tina Havelock Stevens, Katie Hayne, Mikhaila Jurkiewicz, Waratah Lahy, Hardy Lohse, Catherine O’Donnell, David Paterson, Alan Patterson, Patrice Riboust, Natalie Rosin, Khaled Sabsabi, James Tylor (Possum)

CMAG | Habitat: Ways of living | Until 26 June

This important and well-constructed exhibition examines high-rise, upmarket apartments, suburban settings and places that have collapsed. In Canberra, elsewhere in Australia, and overseas.

In her catalogue foreword, Rowan Henderson makes the point that ‘Home’ is a value-laden word. Very true – for the fortunate, homes are where we feel secure. Others are less fortunate, even suffering the domestic violence issues currently filling so much media.

David Paterson exhibits photographic images of densely packed high-rise apartment blocks in Hong Kong and Singapore. They are wonderful geometric compositions. Look for birds in flight passing across the buildings.

Singapore apartments, 2019
inkjet print, courtesy of the artist

In intimately scaled watercolours (and gouache) on paper, Waratah Lahy illustrates the recent transformation of Canberra’s inner north, from older residences on large blocks, to townhouses and apartments.

Hardy Lohse’s photographs of the Currong Flats being demolished pose questions. What are our memories and responses?

Currong Apartments, 2016
inkjet print, courtesy of the artist

Katie Hayne’s engagement with demolition of mid-century public housing is depicted in her video, Stuart Flats, going, 2019. She also evokes this disappearing side of Canberra in two small oil on board paintings.

David Flanagan’s photographs are about green fields’ real estate projects near Canberra’s northern boundary, and include one featuring a billboard proclaiming, ‘FULL OF POSSIBILITY’.

Untitled # 21, from ‘Move up to the views’ series, 2015
chromogenic colour photograph

Alex Asch explores the suburban life of Canberrans in his installation, Suburban Block, 2020. The catalogue suggests a visual association with children’s building blocks. They reminded me of black houses I’ve seen in coastal areas of Kent, England.

With charcoal on paper artworks, Catherine O’Donnell focuses on suburban landscapes and houses from her youth. And she shows a linear analysis of composition in a graphic depiction of the Sirius Building in Sydney. There also is a watercolour and ink sketch, Sirius public housing apartments, 1978 – 79, bearing Alan Patterson’s signature.

Catherine O’DONNELL
Sirius, 2018, charcoal on paper
Courtesy of the artist and May Space

Patrice Riboust spent many hours studying various forms of historical architecture. Using those as source material, he produced highly detailed sketches of imaginary structures – ink and marker on tracing paper.

Natalie Rosin contributes impressive ceramic sculptures reflecting brutalist buildings observed during a residency in Poland.

Janet Burchill and Jennifer McCamley used old colour film to photograph Berlin locations being used by Turkish immigrants as places of refuge and informal socialising. The resulting work, Freiland, 1992, consists of a series of nineteen discrete but sequential images. Some of the film stock used had been compromised prior to use, infusing some of the images with an unearthly blue, or harsh red cast.

The 2006 Lebanon War severely damaged civilian infrastructure in central Beirut. Khaled Sabsabi has painted over his photographic images creating a frieze-like series.

Miriam Charlie is a Yanyuwa/Garrwa woman living in Borroloola, a community in the Northern Territory. Her photographic series, No country, no home, 2015, documents the living conditions of her friends and relatives there.

One work by James Tylor (Possum), Unresettling (Stone footing for dome hut), 2016, is a simulacrum of the stone foundations for an Aboriginal domestic shelter. These phantom structures are physically created by the artist’s hand and translated via the camera’s aperture.

None of us need reminding that calamitous bushfires were experienced over the 2019-20 summer in nearby forests. Sean Davey’s photographs nevertheless are a poignant reminder.

Untitled (Little Bombay Road, Bombay NSW) 2019
pigment print on Ilford cotton paper, Courtesy of the artist

Flame is also an important element of Michal Glikson’s video, Jhumpiri: Coming down, 2014 – 2019, set in one family’s makeshift structure on the streets of Lahore, Pakistan.

Tina Havelock Stevens shows stills adapted from her video, Drum Detroit, 2011, revealing urban decay.

Skull House, from the Drum Detroit series 2011 – 13
video still, chromogenic colour photograph, metallic
Courtesy of the artist

Mikhaila Jurkiewicz often uses large format negatives in her photography, requiring her subjects to remain still during protracted sittings. The results somehow  reminiscent of daguerreotypes.

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


Mervyn Bishop, the exhibition

Photography Review

Mervyn Bishop | Mervyn Bishop, the exhibition

National Film and Sound Archives | Until 1 August 2021

This exhibition is drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) collection and Mervyn Bishop’s private archive; and enriched by sound and moving images from the NFSA. It features iconic photographs that derive from his career as a photojournalist, alongside personal images of family and friends and intimate portraits of members of the Aboriginal community.

H. Thomas, C. Dixon, K. Smith ACT from the Mervyn Bishop archive 1976 35mm colour slide 2.5 x 3.5 cm National Art Archive|Art Gallery of New South Wales © Mervyn Bishop Photo: AGNSW

There are also images of Bishop by other photographers, cameras from his personal collection, sound and moving image about him, and other videos providing context. So, it is not simply an exhibition of the artist’s imagery. It is an exhibition about the artist, one of Australia’s most prolific and influential photographers, who has significantly influenced our collective understanding of Australia’s history.

Bishop himself has said: ‘Photography has been my life, my passion for 60 years: the art and technique, the stories I’ve witnessed and captured. I’m glad to be able to share my life’s work with the public’.

Born and raised in Brewarrina, Bishop was encouraged by his mother to take his first photograph. After witnessing the ‘magic’ of the developing process, he became passionate about photography. In 1963 he successfully applied for a four-year cadetship at The Sydney Morning Herald and became Australia’s first Aboriginal press photographer. In 1971 he won the News Photographer of the Year Award with his front-page photograph, Life and Death Dash, 1971.

There is no need for me to assess the quality of Bishop’s images; others have recognised his skills many times over many years. I will simply say that his body of work is amongst the most significant by any Australian photographer.

Inevitably displayed is the iconic image from 1975 when the (then) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, poured a handful of earth back into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, Gurindji elder and traditional landowner. This image became an icon of the land rights movement and Australian photography.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory 1975, printed 1999 type R3 photograph 30.5 x 30.5 cm image; 33.9 x 33.9 cm sheet Art Gallery of New South Wales Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991 © Mervyn Bishop/ Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Photo: AGNSW

But there is so much more. A wonderful shot of womenfolk at Bowraville includes Aunty Elaine Kelly wearing a cloth nappy around her face to ease toothache pain. Women attending a home management course at Yuendumu are portrayed sensitively in a fine moody image. Another of a woman balancing precariously on a wooden plank, holding a pot of water over a submerged cord supplying electricity to neighbours is a moving portrayal of living conditions for Aboriginal people in 1988.

There are important documentary images of well-known and important people, including Lois O’Donoghue and Oodgeroo Noonuccal. Other featured people include Roslyn Watson, one of the first Aboriginal ballerinas, and June Barker, an Aboriginal educator and story keeper.

Lois O’Donoghue CBA, AM, and Oodgeroo Noonuccal 1974, printed 2008 gelatin silver photograph 30 x 30.4 cm image; 40.4 x 50.6 cm sheet Art Gallery of New South Wales Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008 © Mervyn Bishop Photo: AGNSW
Roslyn Watson 1973, printed 2008 gelatin silver photograph 40 x 30 cm sheet Art Gallery of New South Wales Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008 © Mervyn Bishop Photo: AGNSW

And there are other more simple or gentle portrayals, such as Bob with his tiny catch at Shoalhaven Heads. An early work from 1966 portrays two of the photographer’s cousins when he visited Gundawera, a property near Brewarrina, where his grandfather, father and uncle once worked. It tenderly portrays a special and fun moment on a boat. It is a precious memory for Bishop, just as our old family photos are precious for each of us.

Cousins, Ralph and Jim, Brewarrina 1966, printed 2008 gelatin silver photograph 30 x 40 cm sheet Art Gallery of New South Wales Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008 © Mervyn Bishop Photo: AGNSW

We are shown an excellent film about Bishop, directed by Warwick Thornton. And a home movie dating from c1957-8 of Bishop with fellow altar boys and Brothers at Brewarrina’s Christchurch, Church of England.

And when you have explored and taken in all of that, you can sit down and watch a curated slideshow of images from Bishop’s personal archive of over 8000 photos, taken during his 60 years of taking them. Like most photographers of his generation, he liked to host ‘slide nights’ for family, friends and neighbours. They were most fortunate people.

This review was first published by the Canberra Times here. It is also published on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.