Photography Review: Close
Ian Skinner and Karen Coombes: PhotoAccess Online Gallery
16 April – 16 May 2020
Karen Coombes and Ian Skinner first met while participating in the PhotoAccess personal photography project in 2015-16. They found they shared a love of spontaneous, observational photography, inspired by natural subjects. In their original exhibition application to PhotoAccess they said “Close will include around fifteen large-scale inkjet prints. The works will be up to A1 size in both landscape and portrait orientation. These will be unframed either pinned directly to wall or matted and double-sided taped, allowing viewers to engage with the works quite directly. Works will be monochrome photography however if during the creation process some colour images present themselves, these could be included in a way that enhances the exhibition experience rather than introducing discord. The installation will feel clean, spacious, and cohesive.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to purchase.