Contemporary Female Photo-Artists

‘Contemporary Female Photo-Artists’ at Sydney’s Artereal Gallery presents new work by nine gender-based creatives; Svetlana Bailey, Rebecca Beardmore, Anna Carey, Shoufay Derz, Simone Douglas, Anne MacDonald, Jess MacNeil, Emily Sandrussi and Zan Wimberley. These artists interpret temporal, physical and psychological space through a range of photographic approaches and the use of non-conventional materials and experimental techniques; pushing photomedia limits through performance, film, installation, and even pyrotechnics.

“This is what characterises the work that our artists are doing across the board,” says curator Barbara Dowse. “My role here at Artereal Gallery is to source the artists and develop and implement the exhibition program. So what I’m looking for are those artists who have mastered their techniques but are innovative in some way, either in the way they present their work and their conceptual approach or the material and techniques that they use,” Dowse continues.

Rebecca Beardmore, Lane IV, 2017, UV flatbed print and screenprint on shrink mirror, 122 x 107cm. Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Rebecca Beardmore is a Sydney-based Canadian printmaker, photographer and installation artist who uses shrink-mirror fabric to imbed the image. This technique is used in set decoration particularly where a mirrored surface was needed for a large area that wasnt too fragile to use on stage. Ways of seeing, perspective and the idea of reflection is prevalent in Beardmore’s work as seen in her ‘Persistence of Vision’ series where the echoing fabric is wrapped and stretched on wooden frames in the way of conventional canvases. In her blurred and distorted photographs, Beardmore is capturing an original or ‘departure’ image and in effect a transformed consciousness of environment and a charged ‘daydreaming’ sense of suspended time and memory.

Australian artist Anna Carey combines photography, model-making, film and drawing. Through memory and imagination, she creates fictive architectural spaces based on familiar iconic structures. Carey’s film, Slow, “embraces the connection between colour, place and memory negotiating spaces as psychological resonating chambers that are virtual exterior sanctuaries for our interior states. Carey seeks to create a space of stillness, solitude and contemplation, a place for remembering days, forgetting time, for reverie; for drifting between reality and daydreams induced by colour,” writes Dowse in her exhibition essay.

Zan Wimberley, Flee from the Deadly Light, 2017, unique silver gelatin photogram with artist custom made frame. Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Zan Wimberley continues this notion of place and memory in her use of fire as a medium to create photograms where images are transferred in an unconventional ‘no camera’ approach. Wimbereley uses photo-sensitive paper for image creation and transfer, ignited by the same flash powder used in firework displays. The after-effect is a blurred, distorted image; “It’s that whole notion of truth that is being denied,” says Dowse. “It’s one step removed.”

This idea of truth and illusion, as well as alchemy of light and chemistry is prominent in the work of Simone Douglas. Her Sun Tests series reflects on the idea of the sublime and blindness in reference to 18th century scientific studies of the sun, emphasised by her use of one of the primary pigments; “Blue is the last colour we are able to perceive before blindness. Rather than being a record of ‘things’ it is the fixing of light in space over time.”

Svetlana Bailey, way out way in, 2017, edition 6, pigment print on archival paper, 102 x 81cm. Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Svetlana Bailey’s monochromatic renderings of obscurely aligned doorways, unidentifiable in all-white, portray ‘a place in-between’. Similarly, Jess MacNeil is concerned with the dynamics of space, both visible and invisible encounters, and by the potent spaces between. In Disruption Continuum (2013), MacNeil uses analogue and direct painting processes to fill the spaces left empty by absent figures with swirls, textures and patterns created with glass paint and bleach, giving the film a painterly quality. Although originally commissioned by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne for the ‘NOW’ exhibition, here, MacNeil presents a digitalised version, translated into another photographic medium and shown on a screen, not projected. “Its current translation continues the connection between analogue and digital that has been part of this work throughout its many processes of its creation,” says Dowse.

Jess MacNeil, Disruption Continuum (video still), 2013-2017, 16mm film transferred to digital file. Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Anne MacDonald acknowledges the history of the ‘vanitas’ genre in art and the association of the photograph as memento-mori for her contemporary explorations of the relationship between still life, transience and mortality. Life’s fleeting moments are represented in All that glitters, a symbolic egg-shaped field of crumbled gold confetti medallions show the aftermath and realisation of childhood birthday parties; what Dowse describes as “a potent commentary for our time on the transience of personal and political excess and greed.”

Also drawing inspiration from art centuries ago, Shoufay Derz’s An unnamed landscape poem is a form of visual poetry in response to the writings of the 13th century Eastern poet Rumi. A finalist in the 2017 Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award, Derz’s work “investigates the limits and possibilities of language, and the ambiguities faced when attempting to visually articulate the unknown”, says Dowse.

Emily Sandrussi, The whole field of human knowledge, 2016, archival pigment print ed3 100 x140cm. Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney

Language is also integral to Sydney-based artist Emily Sandrussi’s performance piece The Whole Field of Human Knowledge. Sandrussi’s photograph is an introduction to her sound and installation work that examines the role of this publication as a politicised, male-dominated, cross-generational authority of knowledge. The Encyclopaedia Britannica is symbolically ‘silenced’ through an endurance performance where women’s voices are heard citing each volume. Following the reading of its final entry, each volume is physically destroyed, an echo of demise and replacement by the technologies that made Sandrussi’s project possible. Although the female-specific sound element is not being used in the context of the exhibition, its curator ponders the thought, “Now that you mention it, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have that.” And, we agree.

Artereal Gallery
2 to 24 August, 2017