Lisa Stonham: Conversations With My-Self and Others. M16 Artspace. Until September 4, 2022. m16artspace.com.au.
Lisa Stonham is a photo-media artist who lives and works in Gadigal Country/Sydney.
In her artworks she seeks to capture the temporary, ephemeral and momentary through the exploration of immovable man-made landscapes. She documents the ever-evolving relationship between light and time in the context of architectural space, to produce sensory and evocative colour field photographs.
Stonham's work has been exhibited in various Australian galleries. In 2021 she exhibited in the Head On Photo Festival Open Program. She has been a finalist in numerous art prizes and awards including the Blake Prize, Iris Award, and CLIP Award.
The exhibition catalogue describes the artist's work as "a concourse between documentary and abstraction. Although factual, her photographs are detached from physical or concrete reality and resistant to any narrative sense." So, how can I describe the works in this exhibition if they are resistant to narrative?
In Conversations with My-Self and Others, the artist explores and exaggerates the tiny perfect moments, the "right now" - that a more isolated and contemplative existence led her to appreciate. She has captured ephemeral and impressionistic moments within the context of the everyday. The resultant colour-driven abstractions engage with the temporal nature of light and physical space. They involve the interpretation of light as gesture, everyday rainbows in the context of positive projections and articulation of colour experience in meditation and memory.
During the official opening, the works were described as extending from the usual photographic language to the painting language and particularly into abstraction in the way that photographic light can make us appreciate interior spaces but also remind us of reflective spaces within colour field painting. That is certainly one way of describing the works with words.
My first response when I began looking at the images was wow, look at those vibrant colours, that use of light, and those wonderful shadows. Then I found myself questioning whether some works were single images or composites. And one of the prints is quite small compared with all the others, so I was curious as to why that was the case and why it had been included in the exhibition.
Having an opportunity to speak with Stonham while standing in the middle of the gallery space enabled me to share my reactions, questions and thoughts with her.
The aforementioned small print Wayfinder was included because it works well with the larger one, Perfect Moment... Right Now, alongside it. The colours in the two works are the same delicious reds and greens. The small work is an archival pigment print mounted to aluminium, whereas the larger one is an eco-solvent print on solve glaze satin rag. I was previously not familiar with eco-solvent inks, but limited research tells me they have their colours suspended in a mild biodegradable solvent, and they don't contain as many volatile organic compounds. The eco-solvent prints in the show are vibrant - and it is okay to put water on them.
I also learned that Stonham had added separate images of shafts of light seen in her home to other images of pieces of walls, floors and other areas - also in her own home. The combinations work extremely well and are not at all obvious.
This is a colourful, absorbing and well-presented exhibition. Without objective context, the compositions and colour relationships have become subjects in themselves. No narrative is required to enjoy the works.