Various artists: Life in the Landscape - 1 - The Causeway. PhotoAccess at the Manuka Arts Centre. Until May 4.
The theoretical premise for this exhibition is based on the question "How can we photograph the world to capture the inter-weaving of the human and the natural?".
To put the theory into practice 10 participants led by Wouter Van de Voorde spent six weeks exploring the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, and in particular the area known as "The Causeway".
It is a very full exhibition with 53 photographs in various media, a video/soundscape and a selection of found objects that add both aesthetic texture and philosophical contemplation.
The exhibition is prefaced by Process, a compilation of contact sheets and discarded silver gelatin prints representing each of the 10 artists.
Adjacent to this is an animal skull sitting on a plinth. The presence of this as an almost introductory object acts as a pointer to the overall character of the exhibition which I read as a large-scale "memento mori" of what "The Causeway" was; a paean to the (often) deleterious effects of man's confrontation/intrusion with the natural world.
Another animal skull is seen again later in the exhibition and its repeated presence reinforced for me the notion of exhibition as "memento mori".
The individual works provide a really striking visual amalgam and the contributing artists should be pleased with the results of their explorations.
The overall layout allows each of the images to be closely read and comprehended and it is a credit to the curator that there is a feeling of discovery as one moves through the exhibition.
There are a number of very strong images.
Yvette Perrine provides a number of these including Interpret signs (Cat. 3). There is a melancholy darkness in this work cleverly achieved through an astute use of contrast (this trope distinguishes much of the exhibition's best work).
The light tonal disposition of the discarded human "rubbish" sits starkly against the fragile foliage and branches of the background growth. The "rubbish" is an alien presence, visually and subjectively intrusive, an intrusion whose menace is powerfully captured in the foreboding appearance of the storm-laden sky. Perrine's use of black-and-white is particularly effective.
She is also responsible for a number of other equally effective images (Cat's 2, 4 and 25) and for the simple but appropriate soundscape accompanying the video by Van de Voorde (Cat. 15).
Tom Varendorff"s Untitled (Cat. 21) is another especially efficacious example of the use of black-and-white in the transference of mood through tonal and textural contrasts.
The tangle of branches that constitutes the foreground is dense and ostensibly impenetrable.
The inclusion of a tunnel-like hole pushing through into the mid-ground of the image destroys that.
The "hole" could be entering into the mass of branches or emerging from it and this ambiguity imparts a mood of tension, of unknowing that gives this work a psychological edge that is matched by its aesthetic ingredients.
There are a number of coloured images including Danielle Cassar's Untitled (Cat. 53) in which discarded household (and other) items are strewn over what looks like a wasteland.
There is a poignancy to the randomness of the items - metal chair, trolley, basket, tyre rim, etcetera - that imparts possibilities for narrative but a narrative that remains unstated and open-ended.
Space does not permit full discussion of the many interesting and (sometimes) beautiful work in the exhibition, but I would like to mention a number of images by Annette Fischer (Cat's 26, 31 - 33), Bob Dorrie (Cat.14), Emma Schlachter (Cat. 16) and Virginia Vennonen (Cat's 28 - 30).
The premise of Life in the Landscape is consummately achieved in this terrific exhibition.