Reading Room Gallery, Rusten House Art Centre | 4 February – 25 March 2023
Jane Duong is a Canberra-based photographer. She majored in photomedia at Edith Cowan University in 2003 for a Bachelor of Communications. Then, in 2007, graduated with a Diploma in Museums and Collections from the ANU.
As with her Sunkissed exhibition in 2022, Duong has used the cyanotype technique for this show. Under the Sun is more substantial – both in terms of the number of works and their content. Once again, the works do not shout seeking attention, but quietly encourage visitors in for a closer investigation. The cyanotype process dates back to the dawn of photography and was invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. Prints are created with the use of a light-sensitive chemical mixture coated on paper, ultraviolet (or sun) light to expose, and water to wash before drying.
So, what are we looking at here? The artworks result from an exploration and celebration of public spaces and historical places in Queanbeyan – through the magic and coincidence that comes with the cyanotype process. Her subjects include The Dog & Stile Inn, the Queanbeyan River, Rusten and Benedict Houses, and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Each exhibited print is a one-off, handmade on cotton paper. Some have unique borders. Some have been created with negative contact sheets. And some exposed artworks were washed by dipping them directly into the Queanbeyan River.
Cross to bear – Jane Duong
Rusten House I – Jane Duong
When I learned to make prints from negatives in a darkroom years ago, it was drummed into me to use clean water for the processes. Nowadays, a growing number of artists seem to be using “unclean” water. Some collect water from creeks, dams, oceans or wherever to use. Others immerse the paper or other material on which they are printing directly into a water source, as Duong has done here for some works. In the last couple of days I have seen this approach questioned on social media, with someone wondering aloud whether it was appropriate to “contaminate” the ocean with cyanotype chemicals. Responses have been varied.
Dip your toe in the water – Jane Duong
Cyscapes is a video work previously shown at a 2022 Contour 556 event, the Forest Bathing Night Walk, put on by Localjinni Shinrin-Yoku in the Cork Forest at the National Arboretum. Localjinni refers to itself as an eco-feminist art collective which, traveling in collective safety at night, transforms spaces into places using visual art, poetry, music, film, oral history, and digital stories.
The collective states that it ‘strides’ to bring local culture and active travel together, to reclaim community ownership of the street and public spaces. It asks that we think of the collective’s members as art street vendors. They screen virtual exhibitions, lighting up parks, paths, and plazas on night walks and scooter rides.
Their focus on place recognises the importance of local production and local knowledge. As a Virtual Artist Run Initiative (VARI), including more than fifty contributing artists and artworkers, they bring research and teamwork together to develop and refine new ways of connecting people to place. Checkout their website for more details: localjinni.com.au.
The video on display in this gallery exhibition is described by the artist as “moving image, colour, sound, 2 minutes 46 seconds”. On a loop, viewers are able to watch the full video of moving images as many times as they wish. I watched them, mesmerised and enjoying windmills and foliage appearing on a tree.
Cyscapes-3 – Jane Duong (Still from video)
Cyscapes-2 – Jane Duong (Still from video)
Cyanotype images cleverly layered and manipulated with Duong’s choice of today’s software (which utilises Artificial Intelligence) created this most worthwhile video exhibit.
This review was first published in The Canberra Times on page 10 of Panorama and online here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
End date not known yet, but probably until the end of 2022
Many, if not all, cities and towns have pedestrian laneways without names. Queanbeyan has one that is now being referred to as No Name Lane. It runs off the northern side of Monaro Street and is directly opposite Blacksmiths Lane on the southern side. After securing funding from the NSW Government’s Your High Street grant program in May 2021, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council put in place a project to improve the safety, amenity and functionality of these two lanes.
Four artists are currently creating a contemporary take on an evocative old-world experience in Blacksmiths Lane. The concept is to reimagine the laneway experience reminiscent of the blacksmiths and wheelwrights who used to work in Monaro Street dating back to 1877.
In contrast, No Name Lane has a colourful and contemporary design. Canberra-based artist Yanni Pounartzis has completed a large-scale mural work in “fun colours” that encompasses both façades and pavement. The re-designed laneway also features neon light elements, greenery, new seating and a collection of lightboxes to showcase rotating exhibitions from local artists. In effect it has become an outdoor art gallery.
Looking along No Name Lane towards and across Monaro Street, we can see through Blacksmiths Lane on the opposite side to a large-scale mural on the side of The Q theatre, featuring Ricky Stuart as the face of Queanbeyan – another Council project.
The first exhibition in No Name Lane is now in place. The artworks are by well-known Queanbeyan professional photographer/artist Hilary Wardhaugh. She has said “Photography to me is more than just a business, it’s an expression.” The “candid, photo journalistic moments” and the “the dirt in between” is what lures her to capture an image.
This display brings together a number of quiet and reflective scenes from around the region.
Wardhaugh tells me she did not personally curate the artworks. Rather, the agency designing the laneway selected them from images she supplied. Some are from her project #welcomenotwelcome– exhibited at PhotoAccess in 2016, and in her finalist photobook in the 2017 Australian AIPP Photography Book of the Year.
Wardhaugh loves documenting urban scenes that are often not noticed by passers-by but which, with the right light, can quietly come together in a body of work. She loves creating mystery, asking the viewers to question or imagine what is behind a wall, fence or hedge – her images deliberately framed so as not to reveal the answers. A published review of #welcomenotwelcome said “It is a case of what you see is not what I want you to see.”
One image featuring a quite lovely colourful floral hedge has the intriguing title I haven’t got a welcome mat because I’m not a fucking liar. Virtually all we can see beyond the hedge is a broodingly dark cloud-filled sky.
Build a Fence also features a substantial area of sky, with a tiny glimpse of the moon, plus the tops of two streetlights – one adorned by the presence of a bird. But the new-looking fence, with absolutely no gaps in it, totally hides whatever else might be beyond.
Wardhaugh considers couches sitting by the roadside to be “so Queanbeyan”; therefore something that just had to be part of this display. She views abandoned couches as a comment on our throwaway society. This artist is not the only person to photograph such couches – indeed, there is a Canberra-based Instagram account devoted to them, @kerbsidecouches.
No Name Lane’s gallery space is a welcome addition to the Queanbeyan CBD and Wardhaugh a most appropriate choice for the first artist to be featured there.
This review was published on page 10 of Panorama in The Canberra Times of 20.8.22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.
We travelled by train, commencing our journey in Queanbeyan with just a few carriages behind one engine. As we travelled north, additional carriages were added and somewhere an additional engine until the train was very long. Each time we stopped to pick up more delegates, regardless of whether it was a large number in large cities or just one person at a small country town – and regardless of the time of day or night – we opened the windows and welcomed the additional passengers by singing the official Convention hymn.
On arrival at Brisbane South Railway Stations around 26 hours later our carriage being at the rear of the train was a long distance from the platform and we were told to be patient whilst they unloaded the front carriages, then backed the train out to remove the empty cars then return to the station to unload the next lot and so on. We soon decided that would take forever so we clambered down with our luggage and walked alongside the train until we reached the platform!
Arrangements had been made for each of us to be billeted in the homes of local delegates. My host family, including one son John and two daughters were very nice people and looked after me extremely well. I had a great time and discovered the city of Brisbane. Virtually every day whilst in Brisbane brief storms would pour rain on me for as I made my way back to their suburban Norman Park home late in the afternoons and the summer heat always soon dried me out.
Every time another table filled in the dining area for lunch, those sitting at it would sing the grace – trying to use a tune that no other group had used for it. The one that sticks in my mind is “Hernando’s Hideaway”.
During the convention I became friends with a girl called Ethel, who was from Winton. After returning home, I sent her two photos I had taken of her, but she didn’t like them and sent me two others that she thought I might prefer to have. Our plans to stay in touch didn’t come to fruition. I wonder what happened to her.
I also had an opportunity to visit Lone Pine Reserve, with its collection of animals, including a carpet snake that I had my photo taken with.
The return journey was also by train, and I recall us filling the floor space between the two bench seats in our compartment with luggage and covering it with blankets, effectively making one large bedspace where a group of us lay close together trying to sleep.
Mum and dad, Alan and Jill all moved to Canberra in early 1960, as dad’s employer relocated operations from Goulburn to the growing city of Canberra. They purchased a home in Duffy Street, Ainslie at the foot of Mount Ainslie and I moved back home with them. It was the first, and only, home they actually owned.
Everything was different in 1960. Whilst I was, technically, repeating the three failed subjects from the previous year, in reality the content was very different. Canberra University College was no longer associated with the University of Melbourne but, instead, was now the undergraduate school of the Australian National University. What I had studied in first year Economics was now the second-year syllabus, and vice-versa. The same was true of Statistics. So, rather than repeating the material studied in 1959 I had to study new material altogether. I failed all three “repeated” subjects, and my Cadetship was cancelled completely.
A girl whom I had met came to Canberra one weekend to go with me to the University Ball in the Childers Street Hall. She stayed with her brother in a flat behind one of the car yards in Braddon. After the ball ended around 2AM, we walked back to the flat and she changed out of her ball gown. We then walked to mum and dad’s house in Ainslie arriving around 4AM and settled down in the living room. Mum came out of her bedroom and admonished me for keeping the girl up all night and for disturbing the household at that time.
Yvonne Mills from the Reid MYF was my girlfriend for some months, until she dumped me. I was most upset and poured my hurt feelings out to mum, who simply said “there are many more fish in the sea”.
After losing my Cadetship, I remained employed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a Base Grade Clerk working in the Mechanical Tabulation Division. We used machines to process statistical information. Punched paper tape was processed through a so-called computer – a Hollerith 1201 – and punched cards were put through various machines. I learned to sort the cards into order by gently inserting a small metal strip into holes until it was blocked by a card without a hole – push too hard and you made a hole where there wasn’t meant to be one!
I well recall Fridays when, at knock-off time of 4.51PM, we would all rush from work in West Block to the back bar at the nearby historic Hotel Canberra to have a drink before 6 o’clock closing. The idea was to consume as many beers as possible in the available time. As a youngster (turning 18 in early March), I wasn’t up for the challenge. After one beer, I would quietly slip away and ride my bike home.
I also recall one very wet day being lent an MGA sports car by a work colleague to drive to university lectures not all that long after gaining my driver’s licence and before buying my own car. I was both terrified and exhilarated at once. I felt like I was practically lying down in the car and, so, not really in control of it, but also felt very special being at the wheel of such a vehicle. Sadly, the owner of that MGA was killed in it later when he ran into the back of a lorry with pipes overhanging its rear end which penetrated the MGA’s windscreen and its driver.
Once I turned 18 in March 1960, Dad taught me to drive in his car but, after failing the test twice, I had a few lessons with a driving school. That was seemingly enough to satisfy the police as I was successful in gaining my licence at my third attempt. The test included reverse parallel parking in between two movable signs near a short piece of gutter that had been constructed in a parking area outside the then police station.
At first, I could only drive dad’s car when he let me borrow it. Alan was usually beside me in the front and, so, experienced my “accidents”. On one occasion I did not notice a cyclist on my right until very late, slamming on the brakes in the nick of time and coming to a stop with the car’s front bumper immediately behind the cyclist’s left foot on his pedal. When we told dad, his response was “you won’t be a good driver until you’ve had a couple of accidents”.
It wasn’t long before I had more passengers – girls from the MYF group were keen to travel with us. One night when three of them were in the back seat going with us to a church dance, I spun the car 360 degrees as I turned left too fast at a corner where there was loose gravel on the bitumen surface. Fortunately, we missed hitting anything else. Further on we broke down because of a blocked fuel line. We were rescued by friends, including Kevin and Noel Wise – brothers who had some mechanical knowledge. Returning the girls to their homes later I managed to “paint” a pinstripe of paint along one side of the car by backing into a driveway too close to a large painted timber mail/bread box whilst showing off to the girls. I had to confess to dad again when we got home. Waking briefly to receive the news, dad gave the same response.
The first car I owned myself was a second-hand white Ford Consul, baby brother to dad’s white Ford Zephyr.
Around this time I had a penfriend, Elaine, who lived in South Africa. She sent me photos of the area around where she lived as well as one of herself. I don’t recall how the penfriend-ship came about and it didn’t last for very long. The photos remain in one of my photo albums. I wonder what ever happened to Elaine.
On 20 October 1960, 16-year-old Denise Hawes, arrived in Canberra from Melbourne with her parents. Denise has told me I was the first boy she saw on the church steps when her parents brought her to Reid Methodist church. Her younger sister Rosemary was still in Melbourne staying with Nanna to finish her school year and their even younger sister Lynne was staying with Gran in Tasmania. The family were reunited in Canberra just before Christmas. My previously mentioned grief at being dumped by Yvonne Mills was short lived when Denise and Elizabeth York suggested I take them to the drive-in a couple of weeks later. Denise, and her whole family, was destined to become a large part of my future.
Despite failing my studies and losing my Cadetship, I was enjoying my life. The MYF group was strong and provided many great friends. We went to district gatherings, attended Crusader camps in various places, took day trips to the snow, went regularly to the movies on Saturday evenings, and attended dances/socials at other churches. We played snooker, tennis, table tennis, badminton and other games at the church. We went to church twice on Sundays – to the traditional service with the whole congregation in the mornings and the more informal evening worship preceded by the singing of our favourite hymns. MYF meetings themselves were a great time of socialising. Another group, Christian Endeavour was more focussed on spiritual things than we in the MYF. Its members were generally a little older than us, but I still know people who were involved with one or the other group.