Photography Exhibitions Review
DARK MATTER: Terraform, Earth to Images, Found Perceptions | David Lindesay, Melanie Cobham, Tessa Ivison
Photo Access | 28 October – 13 November 2022
These three exhibitions are the outcome of the 2022 Dark Matter residencies at Photo Access. These residencies aim to provide supported opportunities for artists whose practice incorporates darkroom-based or other alternative processes. They aim to foster the creation of innovative image-based works that involve artistic experimentation, critically engage with contemporary darkroom-based practice, and explore social, political, environmental and aesthetic questions of contemporary relevance.
Most of us are obsessed with immediate image creation, but David Lindesay, Melanie Cobham, and Tessa Ivison are exhibiting what a slower and more contemplative approach delivers.
Humans have impacted the physical environment in many ways – populating areas with far too many people, introducing harmful substances, burning coal and gas, and clearing large areas of trees. This has led to climate change, soil erosion, poor air quality, and undrinkable water – sometimes prompting mass migrations or battles for clean water.
Terraform by Lindesay responds to the imprints left by our presence. His photographs, taken to reveal the natural world, depict places that are actually artificial – or human-made. Then, reflecting the innate tension between wild and contrived nature, they have been marked, carved, and defaced. These markings are clearly visible on the displayed prints and, also, on some film strips in a light box we can switch on.
In a catalogue essay, Fletcher Aldous informs us that the exhibition title Terraform means ‘transform so as to make earth-like, to support life’ and notes that Lindesay’s hand-made marks form ‘a subjective response to the world’.
Earth to Images by Melanie Cobham addresses the movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions – what we commonly refer to as migration and colonisation. She has explored how those people, herself included, consciously observe nature in their new homes.
As migration became an increasingly tense subject in the face of the pandemic, Cobham started considering more abstract ways to understand borders, identity and belonging. She has produced drawings, prints, installations, and weavings. Here there are three distinct, and different, sets of images displayed – frost, spiderwebs, and land reclamation. All explore the fraught translations between the analogue and the digital, between gesture and image, and between communication and misunderstanding.
Found Perceptions by Tessa Ivison explores the infinite number of ways we can perceive and interpret the world. Traditionally, cameras have been used to record our perspective. However, Ivison has asked what if the camera has its own way of seeing? The artist has created a series of unique pinhole cameras from found objects, designed to record a single moment from many perspectives. The resulting photographs question common assumptions associated with the medium and how we interpret the world.
One group of colourful images are delightful and employ chine-collé – a technique in which paper of a different colour or texture is bonded (not just glued) to the heavier support paper of the print during the printmaking process.
Also displayed are three unique and complex pinhole cameras created from found objects and used to make the images alongside them. They are each quite remarkable, and different – pieces of tin cans protrude from the various surfaces of one in the style of a Panopticon. It, and another one named the Beast, have considerable numbers of separate pinholes and it is wonderful to see the resultant images. There is also an image of a classic Canberra bus stop turned into a camera obscura and used to create another exhibited image.
Overall we are shown clear evidence of another successful round of Dark Matter residencies. Each artist has delivered the goods.
This review was first published online by The Canberra Times here on 5/11/22 then in print on page 10 of Panorama on 12/11/22. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.