This abstraction of the granite rocks at Kings Head, which is near Victor Harbor on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, is another out take from the Fleurieuscapes exhibition at Magpie Springs. One reason for this image not making the cut is that I decided that there would be no abstractions in the exhibition, given my 2015 Australian Abstraction exhibition at the Light Gallery in Adelaide during the SALA Festival. Another reason for its exclusion is that the people helping me to curate the pictures for the exhibition judged that the image was too forbidding and austere. It was a part of the grotesque mode of expression in the visual art and it didn’t really fit in the exhibition.
This exhibition is part of the emerging trend in contemporary art photography in Australia and New Zealand that shows a marked and widespread interest in landscape. There has been a tendency to trivialise and overlook landscape photography, including the photography of wilderness.
The textual background to the exhibition is that the genre of landscape has been desperately unfashionable across the arts for so long, the preserve of the Sunday painter and the happy tourist snapper. While the photographic canon includes the greats of landscape photography, more recently photographers have tended to avoid a genre that is so easily linked to the vernacular (ie., happy snappers and tourism) and so difficult to connect to serious intent.
My guess that a key reason for contemporary photography’s renewed interest in landscape is that it is a part of an engagement with the edgy relationship between specifics of place and their histories. This contemporary work makes it different from the standard landscape photography, which has its roots in the work of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston in the US, the Tasmanian wilderness photography with its roots in the work of Peter Dombrovskis in Australia, or the British landscape photography influenced by the work of Joe Cornish.
Ironically, the Fleurieuscapes exhibition has overflowed into a second room, and it now includes some of the framed prints of the bark abstracts made across the road from Encounter Studio that were in the Australian Abstractions exhibition. The exhibition now includes 22 prints, and this rock abstract would have been suitable in the second room. The work is about people, space and place and it endeavours to explore a seaside town without embracing either the mood of languid, forever-long summer days of Joel Meyerowitz’s 1979 book Cape Light or the gloomy or dark landscapes of the Gothic tradition.