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.
rock abstract, Kings Head
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.
When I was living in the Sturt St townhouse in Adelaide’s CBD some of our poodle walks in the Adelaide parklands involved me looking at the base of cut logs to photograph as well as the trunks of trees. The logs were from the cut down trees in the parklands, and they were scattered around the parklands to make the parklands more like the bush and less like a park.
I photographed the most interesting ones whilst on the walks but I’ve done nothing with these images. I wasn’t all that happy with what I’d done, but I felt that there was little that I could do with these found objects in the field. These logs were huge and they could not be bought to the makeshift studio at Encounter Bay.I continued with the open air studio after we moved to Victor Harbor as I realised that bringing back live cuttlefish and wet seaweed into the studio didn’t really work.
Then I saw the work of Ed Douglas in his recent Some Connections exhibitions –he was doing the same thing that I was but he was working in the studio, using a large format camera and black and white film. Consequently, he had much greater control over his found subject matter— which he selected from the firewood that he had delivered to his property in the Adelaide Hills. The work was far more sophisticated and of much higher quality.
I have set up a primitive studio –Encounter Studio–at Victor Harbor. It is based around using one small window light, a Cambo heavy duty studio stand with 2 geared heads for view cameras and an 8×10 Sinar P. I’ve also just purchased a beat up (entry level) 5×4 Sinar F2 from Alex Gard in Tasmania. Though I have a started looking for objects to bring back into the studio to photograph –ie., materials from nature, eg., from both the beach and the bush—but so far I have found very little that is useful photography wise.
As is well known, the orthodox modernist response to photography’s taking away the responsibility for representational content from painting was an affirmative withdrawal into painterly autonomy through abstraction in the form or spiritual or painterly values. The more radical avant-grade response was the rejection of painting altogether in the the form of the readymade. Photography was seen to have usurped painting’s aspiration to objectivity in painting’s older tradition of the naturalistic representational function. That left photography’s representations as truth telling.
Most of the critical emphasis to this crisis of painting in the 20th century has been on painting and the way that photography is used as a ready-made source for paintings i.e. painting as photo painting. But what if photography starts working with abstractions in the form of painterly values? Does that negation of painting’s specificity signify a failure to reconcile art and politics? Does it imply a turning to high culture and the traditional values of art and a rejection of non art and popular culture where most of today’s photography is situated? Is it a response to the anti-aesthetics of the 1980s and 1990s that celebrated cultural and vernacular forms that denied the idea of a privileged aesthetic realm?; an anti-aesthetic that is willing to discard the aesthetic as an outmoded modernist category in its desire to overcome modernist formalism.
I have an exhibition of abstractions coming up at the Light Gallery during the 2015 SALA Festival in August. It is a modest solo exhibition that consists of both abstractions from nature and from various walls and containers. The work has been constructed from the archives, and it can be seen as part of the shift inn photography to abstraction as a response to the digital realm.
An example of the abstractions from nature:
trunk abstract #1
This picture was made with my old 8×10 Cambo monorail, and it is the trunk of a redgum that Suzanne’s mother bought back from Arkaroola as a seedling and planted in the reserve across from the studio. Then–the 1980s–the reserve was barren with just a bunch of pine trees. It was old farmland. The storm water from the large housing development up the side of the hill currently flows through the reserve, and it is now populated with large native trees and lots of birdlife. So we live near the sea surrounded by trees.
The Nik Collection suite of software, which has been owned by Google since 2012, was downloaded to Encounter Studio this afternoon. I know very little about the different software products in the collection—-Color Efex Pro 4, Nik Sharpener Pro, Viveza 2, Dfine 2, HDR Efex Pro 2 and Analog Efex Pro 2 apart from Silver Efex Pro–and I’m not interested in some of them–eg., HDR Efex Pro or Nik Sharpener Pro as I detest that digital aesthetic. Nor do I know if they add much to what you can do using Adobe’s Lightroom or Photoshop.
The reason for downloading the collection is Silver Efex Pro 2. I find that Lightroom is not that good for post-processing my scanned black and white files — they come out a bit flat and they lack a rich tonality. I’ve been without Silver Efex Pro 2
since I upgraded the Mac’s operating system to Yosemite, and I’ve missed using it for post-processing my black and white medium format negatives. Silver Efex Pro works well, but it is now part of a package, rather than a standalone software. Hence the download.
I have started exploring Analog Efex Pro
—a film emulation program—to see what it offers. When people nowadays think of the film look, and when they go ga-ga over the film look, they aren’t really going ga-ga over the look of film. They’re fetishising a simulation of an idea. An implanted memory of something that didn’t really exist. That’s Analog Efex Pro.