'Terraform II' - Josh Dykgraaf. Lobby Space, EAST Hotel. On until March 11.
PhotoAccess has shared creative photography with Canberrans for more than 30 years. In addition to in-house exhibitions, it is now conducting satellite exhibitions such as this one at the nearby EAST Hotel.
Self-proclaimed Photoshop wizard Josh Dykgraaf has delivered a striking and timely show. There was a definite buzz at the opening as people viewed the large prints and an enormous projection of the images. Subsequently I've had several people tell me how great the works were.
Prior to seeing the exhibition, I was asked how being an expert in Photoshop made Dykgraaf an artist. Perhaps there is a misconception that digital art isn't real art. A digital "artist" buys some expensive equipment and that's all - they can now produce outstanding art. That's cheating, isn't it?
I've been using computer software since 2004 to prepare images for display and printing. Some suggested I was cheating when I first submitted a digital print to a competition. It can take us a while to accept new things. What we do with software essentially is not different from what some of us used to do in the darkroom, but it has made it much easier.
Modification of photographs has a long history - effectively since the beginning of photography. Editing software is just a current means to facilitate the modification of images. It is a tool which invites users to perform magic. These programs enable the creative manipulation of photos as you explore the artist in yourself.
There are many superb artists who create their art from photographs utilising software and many other techniques. The Facebook group Artists Down Under is just one place where the range of photographic artworks displayed demonstrates how being skilled at using software enables people to create artworks.
Writing in the excellent exhibition catalogue (thanks Photo Access), Nick Parker tells us that Dykgraaf had an ability for drawing and perspective from childhood.
Commenting on social media, David Chalker (a previous director of Photo Access) says Dykgraaf was "an enthusiastic and brilliant kids program tutor" and "has gone on to make an extraordinary contribution to the photo arts". His studies, discovery of Photoshop, creativity and imagination have brought him to be a practising artist - although he still has some creative anxiety and is unsure whether he is an artist or photographer.
Terraform II invites intimate attention to vanishing species and explores the limits and interconnections of the world. The images are remarkable Photoshop manipulations of animals created from the photographers own original images of animals, landscapes, fur, petals and leaves (which are like feathers in shape). The genesis of this occurred when he noticed the similarity between textures of rock formations and an elephant's hide. Each piece takes about 35 hours to meticulously construct and the artist is looking to create something that will bring an emotional response.
Remarkably lifelike, his created creatures astound us and make us curious as we gaze at them gazing back at us. Close inspection reveals intricate details. What we initially think are the dark scales of a snake's belly is rock. We see pink feathers on a Flamingo, then realise they are autumn leaves. The visual tricks are not immediately obvious. The careful balance between imagination and real life disrupts our critical thinking and we believe what we see for the sake of enjoyment.
The newest work in the show is centred around the bushfires that have scarred massive areas of Australia over recent months is another wake-up call regarding climate change. Proceeds from sales of the bushfire-themed works will be donated to the wildlife rescue organisation, WIRES.