Rebecca Worth, Remnant. Kon Kudo, Pop. Ellen Hewitt. The Death's Maiden. Huw Davies Gallery, PhotoAccess at the Manuka Arts Centre. Cnr Manuka Circle and NSW Circle, Griffith. Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4pm, weekends 12 noon to 4pm. Until November 29.
The three artists exhibiting at PhotoAccess have each been the recipient of an ANU School of Art Emerging Artist Support Scheme Award and have had a year-long residency at PhotoAccess. As the exhibition room brochure states, "The intention (of the residency) is to assist those photographers in the emerging stage of their careers and with limited exhibition experience, to develop and present new work".
Rebecca Worth's Remnant consists of 11 inkjet prints on cotton, each 59.4 x 84.1 centimetres. The prints are suspended on wooden dowels and seemingly float in the gallery space. This physical state may be a subtle allusion to the thematic basis of the exhibition which is an homage to the Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach (1884 – 1922) who in 1921 published his eponymous "inkblot test" for the first time. This "test' will be familiar to many of us. Briefly it is an analysis of a subject's perceptive reactions to a series of inkblot images. Each subject "reacts" differently and meaning is embedded in the subject/viewer rather than in the inkblot image. As such, meaning is a fugitive and fluid concept, constantly changing and moving and "meaningful", if at all, only to the individual in confrontation with the inkblot or, in the present exhibition, the 11 images made by the artist.
In her plays with perception Worth capitalises on repetition with the same (or very similar) images recurring throughout the exhibition. Ambiguity is rife, as is the open-ended dialogue. The artist is not concerned with answers but rather with establishing a space for interrogative internal dialogue that happens when viewers search for their own meanings within the images and the space between themselves and those images. It is this aspect of her installation – a kinetic spatial flow – that intimately connects the physical with the thematic and conceptual.
The artist's use of (tonal) blacks is very effective and aesthetically produces her strongest work. When a range of colours is incorporated into the image, its efficacy is diluted and a patterned visual imposte results. Throughout her black tonal variations the play of light and shade, the chiaroscuro, is a vital ingredient in the expression of her exposition of a search for individual meaning. This is a clever exhibition, intellectually fine and visually embracing.
While Rebecca Worth's Remnant uses photography's associative possibilities to explore concepts of meaning related to the self, Kon Kudo looks at the means and tools of photography to comment on itself. His Pop is an eccentric mechanical tool, awkward and noisy, that demands physical interaction with the viewer for it to successfully operate. His source is the flipbook that some of us might remember from childhood. These were small, hand-held objects that were set in action when the holder used his/her fingers to flip through a series of static partial images that constituted the eventual "moving image" of, if I remember correctly, a usually comic or pedestrian activity. It was physically intimate and avowedly an old-fashioned "technology".
Kudo's Pop comprises 1222 5.0 x 7.0 centimetre inkjet images placed on a wood and metal conveyor belt that is attached to the gallery wall. It is an intrusive and weird contraption that needs the viewer to set it in motion here to watch the artist blow up a balloon until it bursts. Once the machine is started it noisily moves the 1222 images along its "track" awaiting the viewer to use his/her finger to begin to distinguish the activity depicted on the cards. While the machine presents as an intriguing apparatus, its avowedly old-fashioned "technology" (I use the word loosely) is an ironic comment on the plethora of hand-held and portable "technologies" that populate the contemporary world. Kudo's interactive Pop is incisive and witty social comment.
Ellen Hewitt's The Death's Maiden is an atmospheric and contemplative visual meditation on life and death. The five mixed-media works sit in the darkened gallery. Each work comprises inkjet prints on washi paper set in a lightbox. The space is empty apart from three seats. This spatial starkness is in direct contrast to the layered complexity of each of the works, and creates a place for private and introspective thought predicated on the dialogue established by Hewitt through her richly evocative images.
The imagery throughout the series is overlaid and veiled, characterised by an objective distance that is both attractive and disturbing. The internal images are almost collaged on to one another and imbue a dream-like otherworldly character redolent of (some) 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite photography.This aspect is cumulatively increased through exploration of the five works. The layering also offers textural and surface richness that speak of the experiential impact of memory and its clinging vestiges. Cloying sentimentality does not arise here because the artist invests each work with a purposeful opacity in which clarity and definition in the images are not sought. The female protagonist is present in some way or another throughout. Her gaze moves beyond the viewer and with this pose she represents us all and our connection with the unknowingness of death. Hewitt is concerned with atmosphere, with a sort of positive inchoateness, reinforced by the astute use of the chiefly black and white light that permeates the images and that symbolises humanity's collective engagement with its own mortality.