Exhibition Review

SPIRITS, PERMEATING ECOLOGY, POISONOUS

Review of Photography, Mixed Media Exhibition

SPIRITS | B-Dam Pictures (NSW)

PERMEATING ECOLOGY | REMI SICILIANO

POISONOUS | ELLIS HUTCH

Photo Access | 26 May – 25 Jun

Over five years, B-Dam Pictures (artists Anthony Sillavan and Stephanie Sheppard) used a motion-sensor camera to obtain a series of what effectively are self-portraits of Australian wildlife. They suggest Spirits is the native animals themselves revealing their habits, pleasures and dangers – about their tenuous life existence and, by extension, our own fragility.

B-Dam Pictures – Self Portrait 6

The sense of motion is more obvious in some images than others. Which is best – a greater or lesser sense of motion? Contemplating that, I realised it was not always obvious what had triggered the camera.

Is that a shadow of a bird in flight that triggered the camera? Another shot has the feeling of being a pinhole camera image, even though I know it was not. And in a third shot, at first glance I thought the featured animal was a log.

One shot of a dam has an animal’s tail disappearing out of the frame. Another shows the same dam with no clear evidence of an animal at all. There is much to see and contemplate in this fine set of images.

Remi Siciliano practices “Ecological Image-Making”, her methodology for embracing and celebrating all the different organisms, materials and forces at play within her work. Collaborative interactions entangle divisions between artist, organism, material, subject, object and landscape. She dissolves these categories as we know them.

In Permeating Ecology, Siciliano has intentionally relinquished technical control in her image making; instead playfully collaborating with other organisms and natural processes to produce her photographs.

Fungal networks have grown through 35mm negatives documenting landscapes, while moisture softened and encouraged the film emulsion to peel. The images reveal meeting points of growth and decomposition.

Remi Siciliano – Plexus, 2021

Although very different to B-Dam Pictures works – large rather than small, and abstract rather than documentary – these artworks also are great.

Remi Siciliano – Image 2

I recently read of the “strange allure” of fungi and how it has always captured the imagination. An ecologist has described fungi as the “third forgotten kingdom” behind flora and fauna and said there is much to be discovered about their vital role in our ecosystems.

By using the playful techniques described above, Siciliano has created “strangely alluring” images. Fungi growing through negatives is the starting point for artworks revealing things we would otherwise have never seen – except, possibly, in our imaginations.

Ellis Hutch combines photography, drawing, animation, sound and projection. This resultant exhibition, Poisonous, investigates the microscopic world of our waterways. Hutch navigates the complexities of the ‘health’ of those waterways.

She questions how people establish social relationships and transform their environments to create inhabitable spaces. Recently, she has been paying close attention to the place she lives and works, unceded Ngunnawal (also spelt Ngunawal) and Ngambri country, investigating the effects of ‘invasive’ humans and other species on the Molonglo River. Here, she has done that by combining large-scale drawing and video projection.

The charcoal drawings by Hutch are, indeed, large and quite arresting – not simply because of their scale. Some might even say “awe and wonder” to describe their reactions when first entering the gallery space through a dark curtain. With a video projecting moving digital images on to the drawings, the works become an installation.

We see glimpses of the molecular structure of minerals and microbes that are both toxic poisons and useful contributors to the ecosystem. This is art, successfully revealing a realm invisible to our eyes – a place critical to our survival.

Ellis Hutch – Blackmtnpeninsulaboatramp

Each artist is curious about the processes that drive the varied eco-systems of our planet. Each has employed a distinctive method to investigate the natural world’s intricacies.

This review was published on page 10 of Panorama in the Canberra Times of 16/6/22 and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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Exhibition Review

Entanglement

Photomedia Exhibition Review

ENTANGLEMENT | NOELENE LUCAS

Canberra Contemporary Art Space | Until 12 June 2022

Noelene Lucas is a video installation artist with a background in sculpture. Her work addresses our land from ecological and historical perspectives. It has been curated into major exhibitions in Australia, Europe and Asia, awarded three major Australia Council grants, Thailand, Paris and two Australia Council Tokyo residencies, the latter one deeply affecting both her life and art practice.

Birds are disappearing. Common wild birds connect us to nature. The chance of seeing a Kookaburra in SE Australia has halved since 1999. Those are just three of the messages presented on some of the video panels in this thought-provoking exhibition by Lucas.

Noelene Lucas, Bird text, 2022, (detail) multi-screen video

Other panels display slowly moving clouds and ocean waters overlaid with words such as Ozone (O3), Halons (CBrClF2), Halogenated Gases – Fluorine (F2), and Black Carbon (PM2.5). Those words are about a colourless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odour and powerful oxidizing properties, unreactive gaseous compounds of carbon with bromine and other halogens known to damage the ozone layer – including a poisonous pale-yellow gas that causes very severe burns on contact with skin, and a climate-forcing agent contributing to global warming.

Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_022

I’m no scientist and had to research the meanings of some words when writing this. Nevertheless, the message about environmental changes and damage had been very clear to me whilst actually viewing the works in the gallery.

Another video panel reminds us – if we need any reminder – that “We are dependent for our wellbeing on the wellbeing of the environment.” And yet another informs us that “Filling the Hunter’s existing 23 massive mine voids will cost $25.3 billion but the government holds only $3.3 billion in bonds.”

Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_008

This well-presented exhibition leaves visitors in no doubt that environmental issues are important and require urgent attention in order to “Save the planet” – words that passed by, overlaid against clouds, on another video panel.

Bird numbers and habitats have dwindled as we have destroyed many forests and wetlands, plus our previously clean air and water. Birds have disappeared as humans have destroyed their life support systems – as well as our own. So, it is most appropriate that there are also several videos of various birds and of water contaminated with drifting litter. The clear message is everywhere as you walk around the exhibition spending time watching the moving imagery.

Noelene Lucas, Galah, 2022, (detail) multi-screen video

Central to Lucas’s work is her investigation of the land from both environmental and historical perspectives. Land, birds and water quality in the light of climate change are key to the environmental research. At the base of all her video work is the exploration of time and fleeting moments.

Noelene Lucas, Entanglement, 2022, Multi-screen video installation with sound, Dimensions variable_011

Every day we hear or read about unprecedented flood or fires, that glaciers are melting faster and faster, that people’s homes and gardens are being inundated by rising sea levels. We are told there’s yet another crisis then, thankfully, that it’s passed.

We only have to consider the recent flood events in NSW and Queensland to appreciate the truth of those words. More crises do keep occurring and many of us now expect that, as a result of climate change inaction, they will only happen more and more frequently – that we are moving towards creating a world that our descendants do not deserve. If any reminder of the problem is needed this exhibition serves that purpose most effectively.

Entanglement highlights so many environmental issues and points to our involvement in the climate change crisis. But it also points to where hope resides – in our contact with other life forms, in seeing and valuing and not being indifferent to the damage that has been done.

This review was published in the Canberra Times of 30.05.22 here. It is also on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.

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