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.


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.


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.


Beforehand – the private life of a portrait

Photography Review

Various Artists | Beforehand – the private life of a portrait

National Portrait Gallery | Until 14 February 2021

Beforehand – the private life of a portrait is about the backstories behind iconic works from the NPG collection and the creative and social process of making a portrait. It features excellent works in a variety of media, including thirteen photographic prints.

Entering the exhibition, the first things visitors can read is about storytelling. We are told a portrait captures a person’s presence in time as well as space; tells a story about lived experience – at times conveying a sense of the subject’s past and future. I suspect the vast majority of portraits, including selfies captured by smart phones today, tell very little about lived experience. However, those who are serious about creating good portraits would do well to think about telling their subject’s stories.

The exhibition takes us to the creative journeys behind the portraits, showing us working drawings, studies, scrapbooks, sketches and footage taken in studios or on location. Interviews with artists and sitters tell us much more; revealing relationships and connections between the two parties that generated the story being told.

An interview with champion woodchopper David Foster provides an excellent example of storytelling. Foster is pictured before a tree that he says has witnessed all the years of his family and the legacy of their championships. Photographer Jacqui Stockdale responds “Wow, what the tree saw” and uses that as the title for her image. The collaborative nature of their relationship produced a portrait capturing the essence of Foster’s story.

What the tree saw: David Foster 2018 © Jacqui Stockdale. Collection: National Portrait Gallery. Commissioned with funds provided by the Sid and Fiona Myer Family Foundation 2018.

Greg Weight’s portrait of contemporary artist Lindy Lee shows her standing within one of her own installations. Weight is present with Lee and has captured her much as he might capture a landscape, connecting us with her creativity.

Lindy Lee 1995 © Greg Weight. Collection: National Portrait Gallery. Gift of Patrick Corrigan AM 2004. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Ian Lloyd has also photographed leading artists throughout Australia. His portrait of the acclaimed indigenous artist Gloria Petyarre was taken as she applied layer on layer of dots on a canvas. The resultant image is remarkable, revealing clearly who she is: “an Anmatyerre woman from the Atnangkere country, near Alice Springs”. It is her country, her family’s country, the country she loves. Lloyd shows how his subject has touched and shaped many others.

Gloria Petyarre 2005 © R. Ian Lloyd. Collection: National Portrait Gallery. Gift of the artist 2010. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

When cyclist Anna Meares and photographer Narelle Autio met ahead of their shoot, both were delighted to learn that neither wanted Meares wearing lycra or riding her bicycle. Both wanted an image of who she was, rather than what she did. The image taken amongst the trees and rocks in the Adelaide Hills clearly shows something of her toughness; the dress she wears shows her femininity.

Anna Meares 2018 © Narelle Autio. Collection: National Portrait Gallery. Commissioned with funds provided by King & Wood Mallesons 2018

Peter Brew-Bevan’s image of the Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet, David McAllister, is stunning. It most successfully portrays the elegant motion of ballet, whilst delighting McAllister by showing what he describes as a “pensive moment”. The image reveals much about Brew-Bevan as well. His own energy is a major part of the shot’s energy, so it becomes a self-portrait of him as well as a portrait of McAllister.

The Dance David McAllister 2016 © Peter Brew Bevan. Collection: National Portrait Gallery. Commissioned with funds provided by The Stuart Leslie Foundation 2016

In a similar way, Hari Ho’s portrait of Dadang Christanto is a document of a powerful moment of performance in both of their practices. All who have seen Christanto’s Heads from the North in the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden, will immediately see and relate to Ho’s intentions here.

Most of us have followed Jessica Mauboy’s career, either closely or at least with some interest. David Rosetzky’s portrait splendidly conveys her energy. Every portrait in this exhibition reveals something of the stories of the subjects and it is well worth spending time with each work, thinking about what is revealed about lived experiences.

This review was first published in the Canberra Times of 30/1/21 here. It is also available on the Canberra Critics Circle blog here.