Kate Murphy (Ellis Hutch) opened two new exhibitions at PhotoAccess on Thursday 6 October 2016: Grounded by Georgia Black and Surfacing by Caroline Huf. Kate’s speech eloquently described the connections between these two poetic shows that explore the fluidity of time. Kate has kindly permitted us to share her words with our Focus readers:
Image: Kate Murphy (Ellis Hutch) in front of Georgia Black’s works at the opening of Grounded and Surfacing
I had the opportunity to spend some time with the work today and I recommend you all come back and see these shows (Grounded by Georgia Black and Surfacing by Caroline Huf) when the gallery is quiet – as both shows invite a slow look and thoughtful reflection.
In 2013 I went to a lecture at the Australian National University by Peter Riggs with the title Time travel: its implications for physics and philosophy. I’m not a physicist and much of the lecture was challenging for me to get my head around. The reason I thought of it while looking at Caroline and Georgia’s work is because I was reminded of a question that was asked at the very end by an audience member. They asked Do we know what time is? I’m not sure if those were the exact words – they may have asked Can we define time? It is the answer that has stayed with me – the lecturer’s response to the question was No.
Image: Caroline Huf, Surfacing: Lawn, 2016, stills from digital video
In her essay responding to Caroline’s work Genevieve Swifte writes poetically about the viscosity of our temporal sense, and it’s the subjectivity of our sense of time that pervades the works in these two exhibitions; the fluidity of time, of personal memories and of shifting environmental conditions. I strongly recommend you read Genevieve’s essay and also Claire Capel-Stanley’s essay about Georgia’s work. Both of them provide some very thoughtful responses and insights into these works. I think it’s wonderful that PhotoAccess commissions writers to respond to the exhibitions providing audiences with another perspective on the works and a thoughtful dialogue between the artists and writers. It gives us as audiences a series of points of departure to consider in our own engagement with the work.
When it comes to photography it is common to hear it associated with speed – with a click of a shutter – a capturing of an instant – a press of a button. What both of these exhibitions sparked in me was a sense in which photographers have the capacity to explore the vagaries of our limited experience and understandings of time. Both Georgia and Caroline take a subject and explore it deeply – creating works that invite meditative reflection. They are not images that have been created in an instant.
Image: Georgia Black, The Return (detail), 2016, smoke and acrylic on glossy photo paper, 10.0 x 15.0 cm
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the PhotoAccess program this year is the range of approaches to photography we’ve seen in the exhibitions. Some of the exhibitors have come from a highly technical studio-based practice, some from street photography and documentary traditions, some working with analogue processes and some purely in the digital realm – and many crossings over of those various areas of practice.
The two current exhibitions are by artists who have backgrounds in printmaking and drawing, and in sculpture, installation and performance. It is interesting to see how they approach photography as part of their wider practices – how they engage with the processes of taking photographs and breaking them up – or breaking them down. They pull photography apart and use the photographic process to construct something that is both familiar and unsettling – old and new – evocative of experiences that evade our direct perception.
Georgia’s screen-prints involve a number of interrogations of the image – separating out layers of colour, creating photosensitive screens and exposing them to light – then layering up colours in the printing process to construct a new photographic image. The prints bear the traces of the process – edges where you can see the registration of the colours, a kind of moiré effect of the texture of the silkscreen from the printing process. Caroline’s time-lapses fracture, condense and stretch out moments – they remind me that moving images are made up of many stills, and that we ourselves are never still.
Image: Viewer contemplating Caroline Huf’s Lawn sequence work (detail, 2015, installation on wooden shelves, matelux glass, dimensions variable, unique)
There are many ways the works in both exhibitions resonated for me – I really enjoyed the artists use of different materials, their sense of tactility and the sensitivity in the relationships between image and surface, light and shadow. There is so much to contemplate in both exhibitions I’ll leave it to you to discover the intricacies of the work, and to enjoy the resonances across both exhibitions.
Kate Murphy is a Canberra-based artist who exhibits under the name Ellis Hutch. Kate is a member of the PhotoAccess board and Gallery Committee Chair. This blog post features an extract of Kate’s speech that was delivered at the PhotoAccess Huw Davies Gallery on Thursday 6 October 2016. The exhibitions Grounded by Georgia Black and Surfacing by Caroline Huf continue until 6 November 2016, more information including online catalogues available here.