12
Jun
13

Review: ‘Lee Grant / Belco Pride’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 22nd June 2013

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In Belco Pride, the photographer Lee Grant comes as close as you are ever likely to come to an Australian version of the American photographer Alec Soth (Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara). That is a great compliment indeed.

This is an intelligent, cohesive exhibition which features 5 large colour photographs and a grid of 3 x 9 smaller colour photographs that form a topographical map of a suburb in Canberra called Belconnen. The body of work investigates how humans inhabit a specific place and how that place in turn influences the formation of identity and a sense of belonging and community. These themes are set in the context of a shifting, migratory, multicultural Australian suburb. The photographs are beautifully shot and individually well resolved; these square photographs then go on to form a holistic body that gives the viewer a wonderful sense of the people and place being photographed.

Grant likes to shoot formally and frontally, but that does not mean that there is not subtly and humour present in these photogrpahs. Technically she likes to vary depth of field to emphasise the context of place: in some images, for example Ashleigh in her Formal Dress (2008, below), depth of field is minimal in order to bring focus onto Ashleigh and the texture of her formal dress. The artist also likes to change light conditions from bright sunlight (Alisha and baby Saul, 2009 below), to overcast (Belco Pride, 2008 below) to gathering gloom (George with his model aeroplane, 2008 below); she also likes to push and pull figures and objects within the pictorial frame, from close up to mid-distance to infinity (the rendering of houses for example). This shading of space and tonality adds a beautiful luminosity to the series.

The humour and detail present is also fun: the suits of the sons two sizes too big in The Duot Family (2009, below); the barbed wire looming ominously above the white graffiti  ‘Belco Pride’; the off kilter lamp post in Suburban Hedge (2008, below) being swallowed by the hedge; and the delicious way that the lead from Kiki travels down and trails along the ground to Chucky the dog. There is a real affection and affinity for this place and people that is expressed in these photographs. They are unusually contemplative for this type of photography and that is perhaps a reflection on Grant’s Korean-Australian heritage.

Other work on her website is a mixed bag: the Sudanese Portraits are very successful, reminding me of the work of Mali photographer Malick Sidibé, while Oriental Dinner is interesting but the photographs are a little ‘flat’ due to their subject matter. The Road to Kuvera and Welcome to Vietnam lack the same connection and insight into the human condition that Belco Pride possesses, and this body of work seems to be her strongest so far in terms of an enunciation of her inner vision. Work in progress from The Korea Project again seems to possess an aura similar to Belco Pride so I await new work with interest.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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6_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
The Duot Family
2009
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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3_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Cactus Garden
2012
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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8_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Belco Pride
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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4_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Ashleigh in her Formal Dress
2008
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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1_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Suburban Hedge
2008
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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12_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Graffheads
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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31_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Roxy and Jess
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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“Belco’s a hole…. but it’s our hole

I’ve been told that you never truly leave behind the place you grew up. That it remains deep within your experience of the world. Feeling conflicted about one’s place of origin is certainly not unique, but for me, the process of returning ‘home’ and reconciling my perception of place with its banal and vernacular reality was a surprising yet cathartic experience. The photographs in this series express the idea that belonging, connection and identity is deeply rooted in the specifics of one’s inhabited landscape. The landscape depicted here being the 25 northernmost suburbs of Canberra known as Belconnen, or to us locals, as ‘Belco’.

As a photographer, I am interested in the way migrant communities adapt to new environments, particularly in western cultures and much of my work explores themes of identity, belonging and community set often in the context of the Australian suburbs.”

Lee Grant

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“I always believed it was the things you don’t choose that makes you who you are. Your city, your neighbourhood, your family. People here take pride in these things, like it was something they’d accomplished. The bodies around their souls, the cities wrapped around those. I lived on this block my whole life; most of these people have.”

Dennis Lehane

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Lee Grant’s latest exhibition at Edmund Pearce, Belco Pride, explores how belonging, connection and identity is deeply rooted in the specifics of one’s inhabited landscape. The landscape depicted here being the 25 northernmost suburbs of Canberra known as Belconnen, or to the locals, as ‘Belco’.

Lee is a documentary photographer who lives and works in Canberra. She holds a degree in Anthropology and in 2010 completed a Master of Philosophy at the ANU School of Art. Lee has exhibited at the Australian Centre for Photography, the Monash Gallery of Art and the National Portrait Gallery amongst others. She has been a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize, the Head On Alternative Portrait Prize, the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Prize and the Olive Cotton Award. Lee was also the winner of the prestigious Bowness Photography Prize in 2010. Her work is held in the National Library, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery as well as numerous private collections.

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Lee Grant
Kiki and Chucky
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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16_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Nathan & Mac, BMX bros
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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13_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
A View of Suburbia
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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25_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Alisha and baby Saul
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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26_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
George with his model aeroplane
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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27_Lee_Grant_Belco-WEB

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Lee Grant
Ginninderra Creek on a Winter’s morning
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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17_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
The Beehive
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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Lee Grant
Lee
2010
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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