News, Reviews, Visual arts

Photography in a new light

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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Indigenous man with truck created out of cardboard
April 19, Calendar, Lectures and Talks, Visual arts

Visual Arts/Talks: Revealed: Artists in Conversation

12 April @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Fremantle Arts Centre ·

Revealed: Artists in Conversation offers a great opportunity to learn more about the fascinating and diverse projects happening at Aboriginal art centres throughout WA and across the national sector. Join us for a morning of insightful, intimate conversations.

Program:

Timo Hogan, Kumanara Stevens and Sophia Brown from Spinifex Arts Project in Tjuntjuntjara (Great Victoria Desert, WA) will speak about MILPA: Language, Driving & Art, an important interdisciplinary arts project focused on creating Pitjantjatjara language resources for Anangu drivers.

Perth Centre for Photography and GEE CONSULTANCY will present on their recent photographic development program EXPOSURE: New Voices in WA Photography.

Artist Yhonnie Scarce and curator Hannah Presley will share some of their recent projects, focusing on work theyare undertaking in remote communities.

Lavene McKenzie and Dave Laslett, photographic collaborators from South Australia, will share their experiences of the First Nations Photographic Mentoring program they have been offering in South Australia.

Artist and storyteller Mervyn Street from Mangkaja Arts will share his recent project Veins of the Country which explores the importance of water, and the deep connection people have to water in the Fitzroy Valley.

Revealed: Artists in Conversation runs from 10am to 12pm.

Revealed: Artists in Conversation will be hosted by Western Australian curator, producer and writer Glenn Iseger-Pilkington. Cultural associations: Wadjarri, Nhanda, Noongar, Dutch and Scottish.

*Note: program is subject to change

More info
W: www.fac.org.au/whats-on/post/revealed-artists-conversation/
E:  artscentre@fremantle.wa.gov.au

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Men hugging in a bath house
News, Photography, Reviews, Visual arts

Unexpected but thought-provoking

Review: Laurence Watts, “Looking West” and Hoda Afshar, “Behold” ·
Perth Centre for Photography ·
Review by Phoebe Mulcahy ·

Though an Iranian bathhouse and regional Australian rodeo culture might be some of the last places you’d expect to see signs of shifting notions of gender and masculinity, both make for an interesting social study, as two new exhibitions at the Perth Centre for Photography reveal. In Laurence Watts’s “Looking West” and Hoda Afshar’s “Behold” we see two worlds that can be defined in large part by their insularity, and respective codes and rituals. Yet the self-contained customs that underpin these communities may not be as impervious as they appear. Taken together, the exhibitions offer a fascinating view of what might be at play behind the bounds of these two vastly different realms.

At first glance, the two exhibitions seem an improbable double-bill, with little in common in tone, subject matter or composition. But delving closer, it becomes clear that the separate collections of works play off each other at a number of levels.

 a cowboy holding a stuffed stag's head
‘Mansfield’ by Laurence Watts.

“Looking West”, Laurence Watts’s exploration of Australian rodeo subculture, is placed in the sunlit front portion of the gallery, heightening the works’ highly performative and forward-facing style. The cowboys square off the camera in their hyper-masculine costumes of Stetsons, chaps and heeled boots, resisting as best they can the pervasive signs of suburban domesticity that surround them. Positioned beside a large pink fitness ball or a neatly-arranged bedside scene however, their claim to the kind of rugged masculinity promised by the archetype of the cowboy is unconvincing.

By contrast, Hoda Afshar’s “Behold”, placed in the back gallery as one enters the space, is dimly lit and subdued, lending a reflective tone to these provocative depictions of same-sex relationships in a Middle Eastern bathhouse. In the same way as the Australian rodeo subculture sits apart from broader society, bathhouses can be seen as refuge-like sites that are distanced from the outside world and maintain implicit rules about who can and can’t attend. Afshar herself states that as a woman, she was “not allowed to enter” and in fact had to rent the premises in order to produce her photographs — a detail that renders the scenes just as staged as Watts’s self-conscious modern cowboys. Nonetheless, the works are touching in their seeming unaffectedness and intimacy, and illustrate their own version of the complexities of masculine identity today.

By pairing these almost absurdly disparate cultures, the exhibitions put forward a composite view of maleness as experienced in societies that are literally worlds apart. It’s a thought-provoking combination that adds nuance to the so-called ”crisis in masculinity” brought on by changing social landscapes.

“Looking West” and “Behold” continue until April 6.

Pictured top: Detail from Hoda Afshar’s ‘Untitled #4’, 120 x 95cm, 1 edition left NFS 75 x 60cm, 5 editions.

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News, Photography, Reviews, Visual arts

Vantage point

Review: The Perth Centre for Photography’s Iris Award 2017 –
Review by: Belinda Hermawan –

This year’s finalists for the Iris Award have captured humanity and its various vulnerabilities, focusing a lens on the states of being that either render us fragile or force us to be strong. Perth Centre for Photography’s Iris Award recognises new and outstanding portraiture in photographic art, and these portraits are intimate. Many depict a subject in the domestic realm, others are framed in locations that may be outdoors but are tied to domesticity. Still, there is freedom in these pieces – each scene catching a moment of free will.

Judges Michelle Dunn Marsh (executive director at the Photographic Centre Northwest, Seattle), Katrin Koenning (photographic artist, Melbourne) and Emily Hornum (local interdisciplinary artist working across photography, new media and installation art) had a tough choice to make. In the end, they crowned Su Cassiano the winner for Divide and Dissolve (pictured top), an understated yet masterful photograph of two women sitting side by side on a couch. While there’s a sense of contemplation in the dimly lit set up, the pair radiate a certain lightness that cuts through the predominantly monochromatic scene.

In the student category, Dom Krapski won for Dear ‘ol dad, an evocative photograph of hands in a plate of white ashes. The mourner is literally holding his departed father, unafraid of getting his hands sullied by the remains. This points to the strength of familial connections, the blue tone of the surface on which the vessel sits somehow ethereal.

Student Winner: Dom Krapski, ‘Dear ‘ol Dad’, 2017.

Other notable mentions include Matthew Abbott’s Highly Commended Amelia, Wilcannia Playground, NSW 2015. Picturing a child on playground equipment in an industrial-looking setting, this image contains striking movement . Tim Palman’s Memorial, Parmelia Road is a spectacular photograph of a roadside memorial in full neon glory. Nina-Marie Thomas’s photograph Ten, which also features as the cover image in issue 62.1 of Westerly, moves beyond its ten-year-old subject to convey the shades of adolescence we all have within in us. David Symons Still…life and Olive Lipscombe’s (Couple) Rumpus Room are active stories in otherwise still interior rooms.

Judges Commendation: Matthew Abbott, ‘Amelia, Wilcannia Playground, NSW, 2015’, 2015

In its new Subiaco location, the Perth Centre for Photography continues to demonstrate why it attracts local support. All the finalists in the open and student categories are worthy of an extended look. By the time you exit back onto Hay St, you’ll have visited the poignant worlds of dozens of fellow humans. And, trust me, you’ll be all the better for it.

The Iris Award 2017 is exhibiting at the Perth Centre for Photography in Subiaco until 30 September.

Pictured top: Overall Winner: Su Cassiano, ‘Divide and Dissolve’, 2017

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