Thursday, April 23, 2020

THE SALON

Photography Review: THE SALON
Members’ Exhibition: PhotoAccess Online Gallery
16 April – 16 May 2020

The Salon is an opportunity for PhotoAccess to showcase recent work of its diverse membership. The aim is to celebrate the breadth and diversity of the community’s creative and technical practice. Work in, or incorporating, any photographic medium (including digital and darkroom prints, video, photo-sculpture and installation) was welcome for submission.

This year, for reasons that need no explanation, the exhibits are on the brand new online gallery space: http://www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au/. Photo Access hopes viewers enjoy the new format, and the works of their brave members willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown!

In her catalogue essay, Virginia Rigney reminds us that “The salon hang – instituted in the high-ceilinged drawing rooms and art academies of Europe to be an annual open gathering of the latest works made by their members – was traditionally the place to test response and their social attention rivalled sporting events. An exhibitor at these 19th century Salons would look anxiously to see where their work had been hung. At eye line was a sure sign of favoured status – too high or too low might consign the work to the fate of forgettability.  But for the impartial spectator, the pictures seemed to jostle next to each other in spirited companionship. To witness a crowd gathered around a work – debating its merits – would be a measure of its currency.” Sadly, we are not able to do that on this occasion. We have instead to view the salon in the intimacy of our own digital screens.
Whilst many images in the exhibition reflect on the recent and current disasters, many others do not. There are numerous photographs taken at other places far away that might remind us of opportunities we hope to take in the future.

Helen McFadden’s Ndutu Lions, 2019 shows us two male lions still resting in the shrubbery as the sun came up over Ndutu at the southern edge of the Serengeti plains. The bleached silver vegetation makes this image different to so many other shots of lions that we have all seen. Andree Lawrey’s Hokkaido Winter is simply a delicious artwork.

Still overseas, Kleber Osorio has contributed a very strong monochrome image utilising the hard light and shadows he saw at the Tate Modern to reveal the silhouettes of visitors.


Kleber Osorio, Shades of Tate, 2018, Inkjet Print

Eva Van Gorsel takes us away from Canberra too, beautifully showing us an iconic Australian outback scene.


Eva Van Gorsel, Nightfall, 2020, inkjet print, 25 x 44cm

Also away from Canberra, but in a very different place, Amanda Pratt tempts viewers to consider why she might have chosen to take such a photograph. It clearly shows us that good and interesting images can be found and created anywhere.


Amanda Pratt, Candelo Blue Pegs, 2020

In works by Leeanne Mason we see our own part of the world in a beautiful way. Her landscapes were taken during the recent bushfires but reveal the wonderful beauty to be found in this place.


Leeanne Mason, Snowy Mountains Kangaroo, 2020

Judy Parker has let us into the private intimacy of her own world showing just one of a current body of work where she has embedded poems expressing her thoughts into the image itself. The image alone is a thing of delicate beauty. The added poetry only enhances it.


Judy Parker, Brocaded Lace, 2020, inkjet print

​Brian MacAlister is also showing part of a larger body of work, looking at spaces and at human behaviours, both intentional and accidental. I particularly like his Untitled (1), 2020.

Andrew Babington also shows us part of a series which he says is a reflection on humanity’s selfishly driven attempt to overcome the natural world. It is a timely reminder that, after the pandemic is overcome, there will still be environmental issues to overcome.


Andrew Babington, Dreaming of The Murrumbidgee, I, 2020, inkjet print, 30 x 40cm, 1/50

With his Mount Ainslie, Jamie Hladky provides the one exhibit that is not a straight-forward still image. Like a GIF it flickers in something of the way that we expect of a campfire. It is great to see an artwork that is one step beyond a simple capture. It should remind us all that we need to explore and experiment with our creations to further our art.

Robert Jack has also explored and successfully shows us what his own accompanying words say “There is no reality. There is only abstraction. The camera always lies.” He is right.


Robert Jack, Echo o, 2020, Type C Print

Joe Slater’s extremely dark image is, perhaps, the most arresting one in the exhibition. It needs time absorbing it before we can adequately see what is in it. Slater notes that times are dark and that his work reflects that. As Rigney reminds us, the act of picking up a camera is reassuringly normal behaviour in these strange days and instantly a way to comprehend what is going on.


Joe Slater, Stairs, Falling, 2020

I could go on mentioning every one of the more than fifty artworks in the exhibition, but I’ll leave it there and simply encourage you to look at every work for yourself. In addition to the actual exhibition and catalogue, there is an excellent exhibition essay by Virginia Rigney, audio and video recordings from members about their artworks, and a full list of works and their prices. If you wish to become a member of PhotoAccess yourself, head here to sign up! Some of these works are for sale, please contact hello@photoaccess.org.au for any enquiries.

Footnote: I probably should mention that here are two of my own images in this exhibition.








SLOW


Photography Review:  SLOW
Greg Stoodley : PhotoAccess Online Gallery
16 April – 16 May 2020

After having to close its physical gallery, PhotoAccess has moved its scheduled exhibitions to a new online gallery space: http://www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au/ and expressed the hope that viewers enjoy the new format, and the works of their exhibitors who have been willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown!

The online gallery space introduces Slow, by Greg Stoodley, by saying his exhibition ‘reflects a personal take on the modernist portraits of Irving Penn. The artist has used principles and foundations he's noticed in Penn's portraits to create engaging, meaningful portraits of his own. These works strike one as timeless and classical, yet moreover relevant and recognisable as a contemporary photo-media practice. Stoodley is a dedicated member of PhotoAccess, and a master in the ways of platinum palladium darkroom printing, and we're honoured he chose us to host this exhibition.’

Stoodley graduated from the Canberra Institute of Technology with an Advanced Diploma of Photography in 2014. Then he was offered a position at the Royal Australian Mint to photograph the National Coin Collection. He is currently continuing his studies at the ANU School of Art, whilst maintaining a commercial photography practice as a freelance photographer. He also has been an instructor at Photo Access, teaching short courses in Studio Photography and Art Documentation.

For any readers who do not know the work of Penn, he was one of the twentieth century's great photographers. Despite being celebrated as one of Vogue magazine's top photographers for more than sixty years, Penn was an intensely private man. Known for striking images and first-rate prints, he pursued his work with quiet and unfailing commitment, approaching his photography with an artist's eye and expanding the creative prospects of the medium.

Penn was among the first photographers to pose subjects against a simple grey or white backdrop and he effectively used its simplicity. Expanding his austere studio surroundings, he constructed a set of upright angled backdrops, to form a stark, acute corner. Stoodley has utilised similar backgrounds.

When he submitted his exhibition proposal to Photo Access, Stoodley’s concept envisaged a “slowing down” using traditional techniques, studio setups, medium format cameras, black and white film, and platinum printing processes. This exhibition invites us to carefully examine the choices made by photographers today.

So, against that background, how well has Stoodley done? My answer is that, overall, he has done very well.

This exhibition comprises 18 portraits, all bar one being monochrome. For me the standouts include Waist Coat, Arnett, and Michael; all shot in a corner and all of men. Penn famously photographed the Duchess of Windsor standing in much the same type of corner.





Arnett © Greg Stoodley


Michael © Greg Stoodley

Saskia is photographed in the same corner setting but, otherwise, does not relate to the other images already mentioned. This is the one nude included in Stoodley’s exhibition. It is a fine image but does not, for me, compare with Penn’s best-known nudes which are of fleshy models, whereas Stoodley has a much slimmer subject.


Saskia © Greg Stoodley

Likewise, there is just a single colour image in Slow and I found myself asking why it was included. Penn did shoot in colour, but his strength is in his black and white work. The exhibition would have been equally strong without Dixie.


Dixie © Greg Stoodley

The catalogue essay Learning from slowness by Kate Warren, a Lecturer of Art History and Curatorship at the Australian National University, is well worth reading and there is some additional interesting behind the scenes background to the exhibition on Woodley’s own blog https://gregstoodley.com/new-blog-layout. He shows some of the prints in the wash bath, drying and laid out for observation, as well as shots of his final print products.

All artworks are for sale, in multiple editions. Some works are available as inkjet, platinum palladium prints, or silver gelatin prints. Contact hello@photoaccess.org.au for details.






Tuesday, April 21, 2020

FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS


Based on the novel by Paul Gallico
Book by Rachel Wagstaff  
Music & Lyrics by Richard Taylor
Directed by Daniel Evans
Streaming from the Chichester Festival Theatre to 8 May

Review by Len Power 15 April 2020

While the pandemic rages on, the Chichester Festival Theatre in England has given us the opportunity to watch their 2018 production of the musical, ‘Flowers For Mrs Harris’, through online streaming.

It was first produced in Sheffield in 2016 where it won three UK Theatre Awards including Best Musical.

Based on the novel by Paul Gallico, the story focusses on middle-aged battler Ada Harris who spends her days cleaning houses for rich folks while inspiring others to reach out for their dreams.  A picture of a Christian Dior dress suddenly inspires her to follow a dream of her own that takes her to Paris and back.  It’s a charming and touching story about a woman who doesn’t realize how much she inspires others while having no real expectations for herself.

The lavish and colourful production has been designed by Lez Brotherston.  The challenge of mounting a complex musical on a stage with the audience on three sides of the proscenium-less stage has been met superbly.

Performances by the ten cast members are excellent.  Leading the company is Clare Burt as Mrs Harris.  She gives a skilful performance of great warmth and sings the challenging music very well, too.

The other nine principal performers play the rest of the characters in dual roles.  So expertly is this done, that it takes a while to realize it’s the same performer.  A fashion show in Paris in the second act is a visual highlight with models appearing in fabulous post-war gowns by designer, Christian Dior.

The director, Daniel Evans, has produced a memorable show in which all the elements come together very well.  His clever staging and the depth of characterisations he has obtained from his cast are impressive.

The music and lyrics by Richard Taylor work very well in the context of the show but it’s a recitative-style score with no individual songs.  It’s fine while you’re watching it and you can admire the cleverness of the score and the complex arrangements but there are no tunes to remember afterwards.  It’s a challenging sing for the cast and they handle it very well.  It will help if you turn on the Closed Captions when you start watching it.

Overall, the story, the acting and the staging are what make this so memorable and it was good to have the opportunity to see it.  The show streams from the Chichester Festival Theatre website.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.

‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at https://player.whooshkaa.com/shows/theatre-of-power.

FIDDLER: A MIRACLE OF MIRACLES


Written by Max Lewkowicz, Valerie Thomas
Directed by Max Lewkowicz
Streaming on Amazon Prime and YouTube

Reviewed by Len Power 12 April 2020

‘Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles’ is a 2019 documentary film about the creation and significance of the 1964 musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.  It features interviews with Fiddler creators such as Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Joseph Stein, and Harold Prince, as well as scholars, actors, and other musical theatre figures like Stephen Sondheim and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Based on the Tevye stories by Sholom Aleichem, the musical was developed during the early 1960s.  With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, the show is set in the impoverished village of Anatevka in Russia in 1905.  The story centres on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family's lives.  It opened on Broadway in 1964 and ran for 3,242 performances.  It was made into a successful film in 1971 and stage productions continue to be produced around the world.

The documentary presents a wealth of information about the musical and its literary source.  Interviews with prominent Jewish academics provide a deeper understanding of the cultural and political background to these stories.  The story of the development of the musical is no less fascinating with first hand details provided by the surviving creative team members and other luminaries.  The film is dedicated to the memory of the producer, Harold Prince, who died during production.

Photographs from rehearsals of the original production as well as video clips from more recent performances and from the 1971 movie have been well-chosen to illustrate the narrative.

Highlights include a montage of singers and groups from the 1960s performing ‘If I Were A Rich Man’, some of them fine but others are so awful they’re funny.  ‘Hamilton’ composer and star, Lin Manuel Miranda, demonstrates that he can still remember the choreography from a 6th grade school production.  Later, at his wedding, an amateur video records an impromptu performance of him singing ‘To Life’ with his father-in-law.

Best of all is Israeli actor, Topol, who played Tevye so memorably in the film version and on stage remembering his reaction to the filming of ‘Far From the Home I love’ in a desolate location.  That 50 year old memory still brings tears to his eyes.  It makes you want to watch the movie again.

This is an excellent documentary about one of the most loved musicals of all time.  You can see it on Amazon Prime and Youtube.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on the Artsound FM 92.7 ‘In the Foyer’ program on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3.30pm.

‘Theatre of Power’, a regular podcast on Canberra’s performing arts scene with Len Power, can be heard on Spotify, ITunes and other selected platforms or at https://player.whooshkaa.com/shows/theatre-of-power.

Close

Photography Review: Close
Ian Skinner and Karen Coombes: PhotoAccess Online Gallery

16 April – 16 May 2020


Sadly, we are not able to see any A1, or other size, prints on a real wall. Having to close its physical gallery, PhotoAccess has moved its scheduled exhibitions to a new online gallery space: http://www.gallery.photoaccess.org.au/.

The essay for the exhibition catalogue includes this accurate observation “Digital delivery is a very different vehicle of course. Each platform has unique qualities and the differences in presentation and aesthetic between digital and physical spaces will affect how viewers respond to these images. Digital and physical worlds offer different types of experiences of the same world. The opportunities offered here allow for a closer and visceral examination of the content and an opportunity to reflect on the aims of both photographers – to take time to indulge in an intimate study, a close analysis of parts, identifying the different ways they work and finally the patience to take a long, slow look at what is being revealed.”

Coombes has been exploring the world through the lens since age 11. She has studied art and photography, and creates intimate works inspired by nature, mood and light, and that celebrate wonder.

Skinner was given his first camera for his tenth birthday. Even then he sensed that photographic image making had a purpose beyond being a documentary tool. He has been described as an observational photographer, one who moves through various landscapes and situations forever seeking visual opportunities to fix with the framed eye.

Both artists share a love of spontaneous, observational photography, inspired by natural subjects. They are fascinated with detail, texture, movement, light and form, and chose to present 47 black and white images arranged in groups to explore and contrast these qualities.

The approaches of the two photographers are different, but each intimately, and successfully, examines the details in their chosen subjects. They invite us to enjoy their careful compositions, inspecting the finer aspects of nature we often pass by.


Like the works he showed in “Coast” at the Queanbeyan Hive in 2019, some of Skinner’s images here were created during his visits to the NSW south coast. His group of four images comprising close studies of elements of Macrozamia - a genus of around forty species of cycads endemic to Australia – are both detailed and beautiful.


Ian Skinner,   Macrozamia 04, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm

His Rocks series reveal another side to the art of nature. From those, Rocks_02, 2019 is my favourite.


Ian Skinner, Rocks_02, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm

Another set, Rocks and Maculata, show us quite extraordinary patterns leaving us in no doubt whatsoever that nature is an artist.



Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_04, 2019,
Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm

His final set of seven images, featuring plants and sand, include one featuring an exquisite tracery across a frond background.



Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 48 x 33 cm

The works by Coombes are equally beautiful. The soft-focus areas in her set titled Semblance make the images exquisite.



Karen Coombes, Semblance 01, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm


Karen Coombes, Semblance 03, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm


Another set, Redolent, includes a delicious image created from a very close view of a small part of a single plant.


Karen Coombes, Redolent 02, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm

The works in the series Lineation reveal how art can be created, primarily from twigs before out of focus backgrounds.


Karen Coombes, Lineation 01, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm

There are some surprises as we explore the groups of images. For example, Skinner has included a close focus beach scene amongst a grouping of sea ground rocks and pebbles. He tells me their ideas evolved to the point where large individual works were replaced by similarly large scale works each comprised of multiple images. The intention was that each work would become more than the sum of its parts. Through that process of responding in a purely visual manner some subjects were included in works (in his case at least) that in terms of the source subject, were not common with the other component images. Something else worth thinking about when you view the exhibition!

All artworks are for sale. To support these local artists and PhotoAccess, view the exhibition, select the print you want to own, then contact hello@photoaccess.org.au to purchase.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Songs Unsung

Songs Unsung.  Performed by Daniel Assetta, with Nick Griffin on piano.  Lighting designed by Peter Rubie.

Sole Sessions on Youtube, 18 April 2020, 7 pm Australian Eastern Time.

Report by Frank McKone

What a difference a virus makes!  It’s frustrating for me to watch Daniel Assetta more or less glued to a fixed mic, with only an occasional few words with his pianist – 2 metres away, of course – after having reviewed Siblingship last October at The Q, in Queanbeyan, where he and his sister Chiara flung themselves wildly all over the stage.

But the purpose of presenting his Songs Unsung is much more about letting us into how Daniel feels about his life, so enthusiastic about performing in musicals like Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Cats and West Side Story.  He didn’t mention it, but his frustration must be so disappointing, as he was about to perform in A Chorus Line for the Darlinghurst Theatre Company at Eternity Theatre in Sydney – now of course on hold for the foreseeable future.

He chose, of course, songs he hasn’t sung on stage, but would have liked to.  His short presentation over half an hour, with talk in between about his career, ended with “The Wizard and I” sung by Elphaba in Wicked, which was his first professional gig.  Gender issues mean he would not normally expect to sing her song publicly, but I felt the words – just of the first stanza – are symbolic of his experiences as he makes his way into what I’m sure will be a long and substantial musical performance career.

When he received the Rob Guest Endowment Award back in 2015, he might well have sung as Elphaba does

Did that really just happen?
Have I actually understood?
This weird quirk I've tried
To suppress or hide
Is a talent that could
Help me meet the Wizard
If I make good
So I'll make good:

And he may still be hoping that

Once I'm with the Wizard
My whole life will change
'Cuz once you're with the Wizard
No one thinks you're strange!

In fact, Daniel Assetta is well on the way to meeting up with his perfect Wizard.  It’s good to know, in these seriously uncertain times, that the arts will survive because of the passion and commitment to keep working.

Sole Sessions is presented by a collective of producers and supported by The Hallway, an independent advertising agency – Creative Director: Jeremy Willmott, who specialises in digital creative ideas.

Media Contacts at Darlinghurst Theatre Company are Amylia Harris, Co-Artistic Director specialising in artist relations, and publicist Jansson Antmann at jansson_antmann@hotmail.com or on 0405 383 051