Lee Grant – Photography Blog

Black Holes and Greener Pastures: making photographic art in Australia

with 4 comments

I’m still navigating my knowledge of contemporary Australian photography, ironic given that I’m an Australian myself, but it seems to me that the very best artists are those that are quietly pursuing their art without much fanfare (and often without much opportunity to show their work, which is a sorry state of affairs really). The NGV said it well when they suggested that, “photography has come to dominate the contemporary art scene but despite the photo rich days we live in, large-scale surveys of Australian photography are relatively rare.”

Two Australian photographers chipping away at their art are Jane Burton and Marion Drew. Whilst they do exhibit inside Australia (and I believe Drew has shown in NY) I would really like to see more Australian photography like this pushed to a broader and more international audience. We are still trumpeting the likes of Bill Henson, Trent Parke and Max Dupain (a lot of men)!! I am not dissing their talent or their work at all, but isn’t it time for some new blood on the tracks? Why are Australian curators and selection panels so afraid of no-names? The NGA is soon to open a new photography exhibition for the inaugural Vivid Photography Festival. Titled Picture Paradise, it is yet another show of old brown photos. When will their senior curator of Photography begin to realise that brilliant contemporary Australian work is out there and needs to be nurtured. History has its place but the repetitive showing of the same work and the same core group of artists is beginning to take its toll! And I don’t think it does much for Australian contemporary photography’s international reputation either.

Jane Burton, Untitled, 2008

Jane Burton, Untitled, 2008

Jane Burton, Untitled, 2008 (All images courtesy of Johnston Gallery)

Vivid could have been an opportunity for a major institution in Australia to demonstrate a unique and supportive stance had it chosen to exhibit an all contemporary show. But the brown photos prevail it seems. The ACP in Sydney however, is about to set an example with its forthcoming show Hijacked, a dual exhibition of contemporary American and Australian photographers curated by Mark McPherson. If you’re in Sydney do go along, it opens today.

from the exhibition Hijacked

And yes, I bleet a bit about this issue but I do think its one that needs to be dealt with by somebodies (anybodies) sooner than later otherwise we might lose some brilliant working artists – as opposed to dead ones – to greener pastures overseas or worse to the obscurities of anonymity.

Marion Drew (from the Australian Still-life series)

Marion Drew (from the Australian Still-life series)

Marion Drew (from the Australian Still-life series). Courtesy of Robin Gibson Gallery

Written by Lee Grant

June 13, 2008 at 10:25 am

4 Responses

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  1. Jane Burton is having a 20 year survey exhibition with about 70 photographs.

    “Eye of the Beholder”
    24 September – 18 October 2009
    Glen Eira City Gallery, Caulfield, Victoria


    September 23, 2009 at 8:40 am

  2. Ooh thanks for that. Not too shabby, already a retrospective…
    Will advise the Melbournites…


    September 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

  3. Hi – Where can I buy a supersized version of the picture of the house – Jane Burton 2008 Untited?

    Scott Diamond

    February 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

  4. You might be interested in Greg Weight’s show ‘ “See You Tomorrow at 2” Photographic Studies From the Studio of Margaret Olley.’ I prefer his night landscape work from the Northern Territory but there is something special about these pictures- they were taken just after Margaret Olley died and even if you didn’t know she was dead, they already seem elegiac. The show opens at Australian Galleries in Roylston Street, Paddington on July 29, but he has some of the shots up in the front window of his house in Burnie Street Clovelly, like a kind of preview. Its a great idea.

    glenys rowe

    July 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

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