NPPP 2022 | Various artists
As I noted when reviewing the 2021 NPPP here, group exhibitions can be awkward to review because of the diversity of imagery subject matter and quality. In a major show such as this though, there is unlikely to be poor quality work. Furthermore, with a focus on portraiture the diversity is diminished. That’s not to suggest there is a sameness as there are many approaches to portraiture on display here. As in previous years, the diversity of the quality artwork delivers a powerful visual exhibition.
The winning work Silent Strength 2021, by well-known Indigenous photo artist Wayne Quilliam, is a fine portrait, beautifully portraying Culture through the rich colours in the ochres and feathers of his indigenous subject, and also his sense of pride. Quilliam is a lovely modest man and very proud of his prizewinning artist daughter who was with him at the media preview I attended. And he’s giving the $20,000 worth of gear he won to Indigenous communities and organising for them to learn to use it.
always, in such shows, I look for works by locals and other people whom I know
personally, as well as images by artists whom I follow. Canberrans in the show
include Cat Leedon, with a powerful, perhaps confronting, self-portrait titled Breast
Cancer, aged 37. It clearly shows the anguish she was feeling after her
second breast surgery.
Bowring has a delightful Family Portrait, incorporating another shot of
the same family hanging behind them. This again is a story which, no doubt, includes
pain – it relates to palliative care and to love of family.
Stoodley’s contribution is another self-portrait Greg & Orbit that I
had seen previously on his website. The image was taken during lockdown and
features a cat looking at his apparently bored face and supine body.
Greg & Orbit - Greg Stoodley
then there is Lauren Sutton’s work Lauren and Poppy. Yes, another
self-portrait during lockdown. All work cancelled, the artist took this and
other selfies to document the time spent with her four-month-old daughter.
are various other images made during restrictions, including Andrew Rovenko’s The
Shuttle, a delightful shot of four-year-old astronaut Mia wearing her
homemade space suit and helmet.
are also other good portraits of Indigenous people, such as Cordy in the
Clouds by Adam Haddrick.
are people from other cultures, an Olympian, well-known people such as Barry
Jones, a survivor of a lifetime of abuse and mistreatment, a 6’ 9” tall man,
neighbours, lifelong friends, a dancer, music journalist Bob Gordon, and a
young woman in transitional housing after a period of homelessness.
One of the represented photographers whose work I always appreciate is Michael Bowers. His work Stella is of a grandmother whose grandson was last seen where she is seated on the banks of the Gwydir River.
in previous years, there are numerous works in this diverse exhibition that we
all need to study and explore, such as Matthew Newton’s Indigo,
featuring an activist, dressed as an endangered wedge-tailed eagle, heading
into the Tarkine forests in Tasmania, where they spent a bitter winter to halt
development of roading to access a planned tailings dam – yet to be built.
is far more than pretty pictures, far more than high quality portraits. There
are so many stories, so many varied aspects of our Australia and its peoples,
so many identified issues for us to think about – all revealed through the
talented story-telling photographers using their insights and artistic skills
to depict their subjects.
We who view the works are privileged to gain access into the personal lives and emotions of the people portrayed.