Review

Photography in a new light

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Review: Michael Reid (curator), ‘Light Years’/Sandra Murray (curator), ‘Abstracted’ ·
Perth Centre for Photography, FLUX Gallery ·
Review by Belinda Hermawan ·

When I visited the Perth Centre for Photography in 2017 to view the Iris Award finalists, I remember questioning the suitability of its Subiaco location. Hay Street was a shadow of itself. Among shopfronts for lease and cafes with no patrons, I half expected a tumbleweed to come rolling past.

However, with upgrades at its previous West Perth gallery, PCP had at least taken up the invitation to relocate temporarily to The Colonnade – an option surely better than a hiatus. In doing so, the centre demonstrated its ongoing commitment to showcasing and promoting the best of the State’s photography.

Two years later, ahead of the 2019 Iris Award, we see PCP relocated to a central location at the King Street Arts Centre, in the gallery previously occupied by FORM. FLUX Gallery is described as a ‘new, seasonal gallery initiative’. In what appears to be a realistic response to the economic realities of supporting the arts, FLUX will also exhibit non-photographic work in an effort to operate sustainably and attract more stakeholder support of the initiative.

FLUX has commenced its program with two exhibitions. Michael Reid’s inaugural lightbox exhibition ‘Light Years: 1999-2019’ showcases works by Narelle Autio, Nici Cumpston, Marian Drew, Derek Henderson, Petrina Hicks, Joseph McGlennon, Fabian Muir, Catherine Nelson, Polixini Papapetrou, Trente Parke, Joan Ross, Luke Shadboldt and Christian Thompson.

Diverse and colourful, the exhibition illuminates the wonder and refinement that comes with technological progress in this artform. Lightboxes were once hot and clunky, and contemporary photography held only a small share of the art market. Now LED-enabled boxes present images with a magical quality, enriching colour and creating a vibrant, immersive experience that will make the viewer almost forget the prints are two-dimensional.

In a world where social media users play with filters and light to create the perfect Insta-worthy image, this exhibition is highly accessible and reminds us why contemporary photography is in such high demand.

Also on show at FLUX is ‘Abstracted’, curated by Sandra Murray and featuring works from Jennifer Cochrane, Tom Freeman, Chris Hopewell, Ian Williams and Gera Woltjer. These works are striking in a different way to the Technicolour-effect of ‘Light Years’.

The artists use colour at times but delight us with a variety of mediums and techniques. Cochrane’s impressive geometric structure in primary blue is a deserving centrepiece, beautiful in its angles and scale. Hopewell’s paintings feature a wet-look effect from his use of black resin; these fluid formations have surprising depth. Williams’ oil paintings are playful with shape, colour and shadow. His slices of gold, deep purples and pale peach are a real highlight in the white gallery space. Freeman’s glazed stoneware sculptures are curiosities with curves and coils that will prompt you to circle the plinths for a range of views. Woltjer’s installation piece is another winner: swimming pool lanes recreated on a wall and extending down to the floor.

At times, surviving in the arts must seem like a constant effort: a swimmer in a perpetual training session, propelling themselves, completing stroke after stroke, lap after lap, the tiled T-mark denoting the end of a lane, a cue to tumble-turn and do it all over again.

PCP’s renewed effort to garner support for creative industries and to find a way to keep swimming, whether there appears to be light or not, is particularly encouraging and worthy of commendation. With the benefit of a central location and exciting exhibitions, FLUX Gallery will hopefully be here for many years to come.

Light Years and Abstracted run until August 3 at FLUX Gallery (Wednesday to Saturday, 11am-3pm), 357 Murray Street, Perth.

Pictured top: Catherine Nelson’s Mission I (detail) is among the  works displayed with a touch of magic through LED-enabled boxes at FLUX Gallery.

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