Monday, November 6, 2023

Dark Matter 2023

Brian Rope - Photography Exhibition Review

Dark Matter 2023 | Isabella Capezio, Rowena Crowe, Odette England, Janhavi Salvi

Photo Access | 26 October to 2 December 2023

This exhibition is the outcome of the 2023 Dark Matter Artist Residency. Over nine months, these four artists have explored alternative processes in the PhotoAccess darkroom. With each artist embracing unique creative approaches, their collective works navigate identity, memory, and the resonance of place.

As I left the gallery following my viewing of the exhibition, the Director of Photo Access asked me if I had enjoyed it. My immediate response was that I needed to go home and think about it. I had made just a few notes to assist my thought process, but they were of minimal help. I had not managed to attend the opening so did not have the benefit of having heard words spoken about the show at that time. I did, thankfully, have a copy of the printed catalogue to read.

These works are most certainly varied. Each artist has explored and provided us with quite diverse art. Everything shown here is different from much of what we more usually see in exhibitions. I have no doubt that some visitors would go away asking themselves what it was all about. Others, however, would leave excited by the works they had seen, wanting to tell others about them, continue thinking about and challenging themselves to do something new if they also are artists.

Isabella Capezio is a photographer, artist and lecturer in photography whose research and artwork engages in themes of failure, queerness and landscape. We are told that here they are drawing upon collective memories and colour darkroom printing to forge connections with place.

There are a large number of hand-printed colour photographs in Capezio’s contribution. They are a homage to an iconic 1981 set of 24 images, by Ian North, of Canberra suburbs which featured infrastructure, roads, the streets, the houses, their gardens, the fences,  and other typical views of the time – all devoid of human presence. There is an interesting piece by Paul Costigan about six of those works by North at

On the opposite wall to Capezio’s works are two lengthy recordings that can be listened to through headphones. Both feature various people talking about North and his Canberra Suite. Also on display at the start of Capezio’s works is a copy of a 2-page letter from Capezio to North expressing deep gratitude for his unknowingly collaborating on the homage project.

Isabella Capezio, After North #8, 2023, c-type print, 20 x 25 cm

Janhavi Salvi is an Indian artist based in Canberra, working within the visual and media arts. In this exhibition she has juxtaposed photographs and screen prints from her life in India and Australia, giving voice to her evolving sense of identity. There is also a video projection on a screen.

A series of inkjet prints on envelopes, the type with windows that we all receive from government agencies and the like, are fascinating. The photos on the envelopes are from Salvi’s life in India. The envelopes were received when in Australia. So the end product is all about connecting memories to an evolving self-identity.

Janhavi Salvi, Do you miss home? (detail), 2023,
3x3 envelope grid, inkjet prints on envelopes, 23.5 x 12 cm

Rowena Crowe is a time-based artist whose work involves analogue processes. Here her modified 16mm hand-wound motion camera reinterprets photography, overlaying unexposed film with transparent acetate sheets allowing direct intervention onto the film and creating a space to explore.

Rowena Crowe, Prepared Camera 2, 2023, silver gelatin & RA colour prints,
installation detail, multiple dimensions

Odette England is an Anglo-Australian visual artist and writer. She combines silver gelatin prints and found objects to capture familial ties and vulnerability. Other contemporary photographers also combine assorted objects with their prints, but these are more powerful than many others I have seen. The found materials are things most of us would not even pick up, leave alone use them to block out significant parts of our images.

Odette England, I just want to be old, like a normal person,
from the series To Be Developed, To Be Continued, 2023, silver gelatin print

Odette England, from the series To Be Developed, To Be Continued, 2023, silver gelatin prints & found materials, multiple dimensions (installation image - Brian Rope)

This review is also available on the author's blog here.