Review: ‘Between Lines’ by Kim Lawler at fortyfive downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 29th September – 10th October 2009

Curator: Amy Barclay



Kim Lawler 'Between Lines' #4 2009


Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #4
Aerial Photograph, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia



I finally made it to Kim Lawler’s exhibition Between Lines at fortyfive downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne and, in many ways, the trip was well worth it. Lawler presents 12 prints from her eponymous series, aerial photographs taken over Western Australia.

Eschewing the essentially topographic state promoted in the “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” of 1975 that have influenced so many photographers in recent decades (including the hyper-real photographs of the West Australian landscape by Edward Burtynsky where there is an emotional distance between the photograph and the viewer), Lawler instead mines the depths of abstraction in landscape photography.

These are visceral photographs – in #4 the river and surrounds almost become vascular and cellular; in #13 the synapses and electrons infiltrate the highway reminding me of bomb craters from a Second World War landscape. In #7 the shrubs, unlike the precision of the New Topographics, become feckless dots, the landing strip a scar on the body; in #12 the toxic unsutured wound bleeds across the surface of the skin, white scar tissue surrounding it.

In these atypical mappings Lawler employs a taxonomy of disorder. The photographs are very soft in focus, soft in printing, big in the grain of the film and there is very little depth of field employed – in other words there is really nothing in focus at all, nothing that the eye and the mind can fix on. These are interstitial spaces (i.e. gaps between spaces full of structure or matter) and the title Between Lines is entirely appropriate for the work. The photographs contain beautiful textures, colours, surfaces.

This is their strength but also their weakness. The eye and the mind longs for something to hold onto, perhaps just a small fraction of the image to be in focus, so that the disorder plays off the order (for one cannot exist without the other!). Mutation only exists if their is something to mutate against. The other two small problems I had with the work were a matter of semantics and others may disagree – personally I found the size of the prints neither here nor there and they could have done with being about 2-3 inches larger and the white frames were too heavy. That is a funny thing to say about contemporary white frames, that they are too heavy for the work, but this is entirely possible: the moulding was too thick and the depth of the box frames to deep for my liking, detracting from the print itself and making the works darker than they needed to be.

Overall then an excellent exhibition that offers a positive variation on the cliched narrative of aerial photography of the Australian outback, one that questions the munificence of human habitation of the body and of the earth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to fortyfive downstairs for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #7 (Landing Strip)' 2009


Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #7 (Landing Strip)
Aerial Photograph, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia


Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #8' 2009


Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #8 (Jones Soak, position approximate)
Aerial Photograph, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia



“Beyond romance or nostalgia, Lawler’s lucid visual studies reveal the aesthetic beauty of the stories being written and rewritten onto this responsive and at times fragile environment.”

Amy Barclay, curator


Between Lines comprises a series of aerial photographs taken in the Kimberley, far north Western Australia. This remote area is embedded with stories of Indigenous and non-Indigenous inhabitants, transitory visitors and scarred by multinational companies resource development. The artist, Kim Lawler, is concerned with markings, both natural and constructed, that tell stories of places, transitions and interruptions that occur within the landscape.

Between Lines is informed by Lawler’s experience of living in these regions and local perspectives on the displacement of people and their consequential relationship to the land that has taken place. It is also informed by the opposing qualities of abandon and connection that occur as the stories within these landscapes continue to unfold.

Competing demands for natural resources, and the resulting impact upon transitional landscapes, resonate with the stories of many generations of people that continue to flow through or inhabit each region. Attuned to the markings on these landscapes, it is these residual narratives ‘Between Lines’ seeks to record.

The imagery seen in Between Lines extends from Lawler’s previous artwork that interrogated additional Kimberley locations including: the remote Buccaneer Archipelago; the isolated far northern reaches of the Kimberley Coastline; Cockatoo Island iron ore mine and resort and; inland regions such as Warmun Aboriginal Community on the periphery of the Great Sandy Desert.

“Lawler’s eye is arrested by markings, natural and constructed, that trace and recount places, transitions and interruptions; the signifiers of change in a landscape millions of years old.”

Amy Barclay, curator

Text from the fortyfive downstairs website


Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #12' 2009


Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #12
Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, Northern Kimberley, Western Australia


Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #13' 2009


Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #13
Great Northern Highway, Kimberley, Western Australia


Kim Lawler. 'Between Lines #16' 2009


Kim Lawler (Australian)
Between Lines #16
Cockatoo Island Cyanide Settling Pool, Yampi Sound, Western Australia



fortyfive downstairs
45, Flinders Lane
Melbourne 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 12 – 6pm
Saturday 12 – 4pm

fortyfive downstairs website

Kim Lawler website


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1 Response to “Review: ‘Between Lines’ by Kim Lawler at fortyfive downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne”

  1. December 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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