From light, forms is an exhibition of new photographic works by Jane Brown and sculptural forms by Sarah Smuts-Kennedy. The processes of time and pressure coupled with materiality and form reveal tensions in how we approach sculpture and photography today, where advances in digital printing and 3D scanning enable the limitless reproduction of images and objects. Both artists insist on practices that are developed by their own physical relationship to the material world and resist this kind of seriality.
Jane Brown’s new body of work titled Not before time signals her continued exploration of themes of chance, loss and melancholy, along with the materiality of the photograph itself. Her practice meditates on time, and underscores the importance of memory and our continuity with the past. In particular, Brown’s work dwells on the impermanence of things – a decommissioned library, doomed modernist architecture or sites on the brink of destruction – invoking a reflective nostalgia that heightens the distinct pathos of these scenes. Brown’s work contains an uncanny ambiguity, a timelessness that sits Janus-faced: seemingly able to cast its eyes into the past while conveying the strangeness of our present.
In many ways this new body of work also references the history of photography, Brown constructs her scenes with a deliberate ‘pictorialist’ quality. The empty chair poised on the verandah quietly nods to 19th century spirit photography; the driver of a hobby steam train evokes social realist imagery; and the documentation of a Melbourne architectural landmark before its demolition draws on the Russian Constructivist canon. Both subject and medium are subjected to a kind of historicisation as Brown revives analogue techniques; hand printing and toning each image onto fibre-based paper in her darkroom. Not before time experiments with aging the film stock itself, introducing visual aberrations as the material itself begins to fade away. In an age dictated by speed, control and constant renewal, Brown’s process can be read as a poetic stand that allows chance, ephemerality and the markings of time itself to feature on the surfaces that we see.
In turn, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy conducts a series of formal experiments using processes that investigate material relationship, form and process. The artist describes these as ‘Problem events’, that consider the tension between material, phenomena and the artist. Using the behavior of the material, from the fusion of urethane and wood, to a series of formal brass frames hovering within a system derived from ‘consciousness and space’ Sarah Smuts-Kennedy conceives small gestures that imply movement, or question perception.
Both Jane Brown and Sarah Smuts-Kennedy work in negative: where negative film casts light and negative space casts form. These practices articulate a strong desire to hold time, to push ideas that restore our physical experience to the here and now. Both artists linger within and defer time.
Jane Brown was recently selected for Melbourne Now a major NGV exhibition project to be staged later this year. Her recent exhibitions include Island of the Colourblind, Breenspace, Sydney (2013); CCP Declares: On the Nature of Things, Centre for Contemporary Photography (2012), Afterlife, Ballarat International Foto Biennale (2011), Australian Gothic, Edmund Pearce, Melbourne (2012), Monumental Effect, Death Be Kind, Melbourne (2011) and A Hopeless Taste of Eternity, Pigment Gallery (2009). Her work has featured in a number of publications including Derrida, Literature and War: Absence and the Chance of Meeting by Sean Gaston, Continuum (2009). In 2012 and 2013 her work was shortlisted for the Bowness Prize, Monash Gallery of Art.
Sarah Smuts-Kennedy’s solo exhibitions include
Shape Analysis, Rm Gallery, Auckland (2013); Principle of Hope, Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne (2012);
UNEARTHED: Encroachment of the Commons, Wollongong Regional Gallery, Wollongong, NSW (2011); Another Day in Paradise, Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney (2009); Pyramid Scheme, The John Paynter Gallery (2009);
Cliffhanger, Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney (2008); Ether, Nature Morte Gallery, New Delhi, India (2006);
Ascension, Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney (2004). Selected group exhibitions include:
Link, Snake Pit, Auckland, New Zealand (2012);
The New Arcadia, Lismore Regional Gallery, NSW (2011);
Shifting Sands, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, NSW (2010); Curious Colony: A twenty first century wunderkammer, Newcastle Region Gallery (2010); and
Wax on Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, NSW (2009). Her work is held in the collections of Art Bank, Sydney, Deutsche Bank, Sydney, Macquarie Group Collection, Sydney, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle.