During a year that at times may feel apocalyptic, the latest exhibition to come out of aMBUSH Gallery, Where I Stand, aims to connect its audience to the strong bonds of people, place and culture.
For Canberra photographer and poet Judith Crispin, this means opening people up to the idea that community is made up of more than just humans.
Crispin, who is also The Canberra Times' poetry editor, is one of six Australians whose work makes up Where I Stand, with the curated selection also coming from Michael Cook, Sarah Ducker, Murray Fredericks, Barbara McGrady and Michael Jalaru Torres.
Each photographer brings their own experience with the Australian culture to their work, that, while not specifically created for Where I Stand, collectively takes viewers into realms of transformation, rebirth, identity, history, nature, connection and the Dreamtime.
It was Crispin's experience with the Warlpiri people in the Northern Territory which inspired the unusual artistic approach she has been experimenting with over the past six months as she created the works used in Where I Stand.
"One of the things that they were trying to impress upon me is that a lot of Western art is a kind of monologue. Telling somebody something through a painting or a poem," she says.
"But Aboriginal art is a conversation between the painter and the country and so what they do sometimes is leave a canvas out and then a dog will sleep on it or a bird will shit on it or something, and they'll use those marks as the beginning marks for their own painting. It's like the country asks a question and then they answer the question."
Crispin was primarily taking photos at the time and wanted to adopt the philosophy in her work - without appropriating Warlpiri art. She ended up deciding that she was going to get the country to provide the materials.
"I use photosensitive paper ... and then I find an animal or a bird that's passed away on our roads, or more recently, through the giant hail or the bushfires," Crispin says.
"I put them on the page, and the sunlight develops around them to leave a sort of an outline of the animal."
The artist then uses two other techniques to provide more detail in the end result. The first is called chemigramming, which sees Crispin use photo chemicals such as copper chlorides to paint the feathers or fur of the animal so that when it is pressed on the paper it leaves extra detail.
The second technique is cliché-verre, where Crispin places sheets of glass above the animal which then hold stones, paint or other items to cast shadows onto the page.
The original artworks are then scanned to make high-quality archival prints, and the originals are sealed in plastic as they are biohazards.
"It takes about 50 hours to make one print and I sit with the print the whole time it's being made ... every hour or so I can take a paintbrush and I paint through anything that's moist on the page, whether it's rain or condensation or blood or whatever. That creates a lot of the backgrounds."
The 24 personal works that makeup Where I Stand were co-curated by aMBUSH Gallery's Bill Dimas and the founder and director of the Head On Photo Festival, Moshe Rosenzveig, and produced by aMBUSH Gallery and Kambri at ANU, to create a 24-hour exhibition along Exhibition Avenue.
"I like the concept behind this exhibition because it's really egalitarian. It doesn't exclude anyone. It's not an exhibition that's designed just for a gallery public or a fine art elite, but it's there for every single person," Crispin says.
"One of the things I love about Moshe is he's a very moral person. And I think for a long time, the way that he's been delivering the Head On Festival has been changing to try to overcome the fact that whether we like it or not there are just some people in our society who don't feel welcome in those kinds of fine art establishments.
"Large sections of the Aboriginal community are like that, they just have been made to feel so unwelcome in the past that it's very hard to get past that. And so, I think that not just in the way that this show's being presented, but in the content as well, Moshe is really hoping that it'll be almost like a kind of outreach from the world of art to everybody else."