Photography | Brian Rope
Into the Blue II | Andrea Bryant, Kim Sinclair, Carolyn Pettigrew, Kiera Hudson, Carolyn Young, Linda Sukamta, Chris Byrnes, Mat Hughes, Ellie Young, Peter McDonald, Hilary Warren, Rebecca Murray, Jean Burke, Susan Baran, Jenny Dettrick, Virginia Walsh, Kaye Dixon & Wendy Currie
Sutton Village Gallery | 8 September - 9 October
Into the Blue II is the second annual group exhibition at Sutton Village Gallery showcasing the historic Cyanotype print and its application in contemporary art.
Eighteen artists showcase a variety of cyanotype print methods using both original and ‘new’ cyanotype formulae, including prints on fabric, wet cyanotypes, photograms, contact prints from both large format film negatives and digital negatives, toned prints, and incorporated in multi-media applications.
Cyanotypes are one of the oldest photographic printing processes in the history of photography. The distinctive original feature of the prints is their cyan blue colour, resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light. But if you go to this exhibition expecting all the prints to be purely that colour, then you are in for a surprise. P McDonald’s Rocks Mornington Peninsula is a classic example. It is not cyan blue; it is a sepia colour.
Rocks Mornington Peninsula © P McDonald
If you expect all the works to have uneven edges revealing where the chemical solution was applied, again you will be surprised. So too if you expect all the works to be on fabrics or watercolour papers and not framed.
Melbourne-based photographer Mat Hughes works primarily with large format view cameras. Wet scans from selected negatives are meticulously made to create quality digital negatives from which to contact print. He finds light in dark shadows and turns the normal into sublime in his unique, beautiful and delicate printed cyanotypes. His Woodys Lake is a glorious example, although again not cyan blue.
Woodys Lake © Mat Hughes
Another Melbourne-based artist, Keira Hudson, specialises in different photographic processes, often interweaving different mediums together. During 2022, working with an artificial intelligence (AI) program, Hudson input different text prompts then altered the resulting images physically and digitally to create her cyanotypes on fabric.
Hudson’s use of AI raises interesting questions – many photographers currently are debating whether doing so means the outcome is no longer photography. More importantly, Getty Images is now refusing to accept submissions created using AI generative models because of concerns regarding copyright and plagiarism. Of Hudson’s artworks here, I most enjoyed Chalkboard. I have no idea how it was created, but it certainly says cyanotype to me, and I like it.
Chalkboard, 2022 © Keira Hudson
In Linda Sukamta’s cyanotype prints, the use of various artistic or communicative media, design and image layering applications are less habitually used techniques characteristic of her practice. Right Where I Belong is a fine example. Primarily in the traditional cyan blue, but also including a nearly opposite orange-red colour, it features botany.
Right Where I Belong © Linda Sukamta
Carolyn Young is a visual artist based in the Canberra region. Her artworks engage in ideas around land care, relationship to place, and between culture and nature. The excellent piece included here is a portrait of Harriet Scott (a naturalist in the mid-late 1880s) and chenuala heliaspis (a type of local moth thought to feed on wattle, eucalypts & pine).
Harriet Scott and Chenuala Heliaspis © Carolyn Young
Kaye Dixon is displaying some wonderfully imaginative works, reminiscent of illustrations in children’s or fantasy books. Of them, Draco the Dragon is the standout for me.
Draco the Dragon (from the bone woman series) © Kaye Dixon
Rebecca Murray is a Victoria-based artist engaging in contemporary and historical photographic processes. Works which explore time, place, belonging and un-belonging feature in this exhibition.
I did find myself wondering about the use of matting and frames resulting in the covering up of the traditional “messy” edges which have always been part of cyanotypes. Perhaps the artists primarily do so in order to create attractive pieces for potential purchasers to display on their home walls?
Each artist in the exhibition has contributed works well worth viewing – and a drive to Sutton Village to visit this gallery (and the nearby bakery) is a pleasing outing at any time.