21
Jul
13

Review: ‘As far as I know’ by Katrin Koenning and Jessie Boylan at The Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 4th July – 27th July 2013

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“…the work itself – which describes various traces of industry and built history amid the expanses of rural and outback Australia – is of a much subtler cadence. These works are more a collection of scattered traces and silent armatures that sit within the vastness of the Australian landscape… While Koenning’s spacious works picture the rusted tractors and empty gain silos of dried-out farming communities and desert towns, Boylan’s images of Victorian forests and mining country have a more claustrophobic feel. In each case. the stories and traces prove elusive and assumed. It is a powerful allegory for Australia… As far as I know whispers of tacit, imbedded history – of small echoes amid a vast land.”

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Dan Rule “In the Galleries,” in The Saturday Age, July 13, 2013, p.7.

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There are some interesting visual elements to this exhibition by Katrin Koenning and Jessie Boylan at The Colour Factory Gallery but ultimately these elements do not add up to a satisfying whole.

Boylan’s images are well seen and the artist makes the environment within the pictorial plane seem much bigger than the space the photograph occupies, almost cinematic in their scope. However, the artist relies too heavily on the single tree or structure to hold the centre of the image, whilst placing the horizon line all to regularly half way up the image (see the 1, 2, 3, 4, and yes 5 images below). Even in the dense bush scenes there is a horizon line in the middle of the image, mentally blocking the viewer from any imaginative engagement with the landscape.

Koenning’s photographs evidence the bleached sunlight of rural Australia with visual elegance, but the artist is much cleverer when she is handling a number of elements within the picture plane (for example, see her series Transit), instead of being out of her environment and then simplifying the pictorial structure. I have seen so many of this type of photograph. They picture the traces of settlement as the detritus of an ailing economy – of a failed negotiation with the land – through a “Tom Roberts” moment. Surely there is more life, more to life in rural Australia than single trees (is there a theme emerging here?), desolate spaces and people in the mid-foreground with their back to the painter / photographer, staring off into the distance. They might have a presence but there are no possible futures intimated here.

But what really puts the nail in the coffin of this exhibition is the quality of the digital printing.

Boylan’s photographs are over saturated in the flesh while Koenning’s photographs are so pale and wane, even in the reproductions, that the print does not HOLD the image. It is one thing to capture the harsh light of rural Australia but when you are printing this light, you must have a STRUCTURE, some base upon which that light can sit in the print. These photographs fail in this regard. It says something when you look at the DL invite to the exhibition and there is the picture of the swimming pool radiant in blue, and then you look at that same photograph in the exhibition which is a pale imitation of the invite. I just wonder what happened in the printing process?

When artist’s used to print their own work in the darkroom they only had themselves to blame for poor printing. Today, photographers are reliant on their relationship with the printer at the digital photo lab, unless they are able to afford thousands of dollars to set up a printing space themselves. To find a good printer and build up a relationship with that person, a person who understands what the artist is trying to achieve in the look and feel of a body of work, takes time and patience. Unfortunately, that chemistry and magic has not happened in this exhibition.

And by the way, none of the photographs in this exhibition were printed at The Colour Factory, just to make that quite clear!

For me, these photographs are not allegories, pictures that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning for what little meaning they have is far to obvious. They are taciturn photographs, reticent, silent of more interesting truths – images that have little new to say which makes me want to look at them less.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art blart blog

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Many thankx to The Colour Factory Gallery 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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Jessie Boylan. 'Clunes (Cottage)' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Clunes (Cottage)
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Clunes (Tree)' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Clunes (Tree)
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Hepburns Clunes Rd' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Hepburns Clunes Rd
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Mistletoe Mine #2' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Mistletoe Mine #2
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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Jessie Boylan. 'Amelia Mine #1' 2013

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Jessie Boylan
Amelia Mine #1
2013
From the series Fourteen Ounces
Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
80cm x 60cm
Edition 10 +2AP

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As far as I know…  

Places don’t just have histories – they also have a presence and possible futures – Daniel Palmer

There are limits to what we can know about a place. Its history and memory, somewhat elusive, are always something slightly out of reach. Influenced by individual experience and expectation, understanding and connection to place will always be personal, and what we bring to a place determines how we see it.

Drawing from two different bodies of work, As far as I know is a story of people and place in regional and rural Australia, tracing remnants left behind by the industrial boom. Almost frozen, these traces of past hover in the land, seemingly waiting to be reused and reworked. As far as I know explores passages of time in manufactured, remembered and imaginary Australian landscapes. Contesting the division between the realm of memory and experience, the images study dynamics of landscape, and what this landscape means to us.

Press release from The Colour Factory Gallery website

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Katrin Koenning. 'Camp Detail #1, Fowlers Bay' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Camp Detail #1, Fowlers Bay
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Campsite, Coorong National Park' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Campsite, Coorong National Park
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

 

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Katrin Koenning. 'Grain Silo, Loch' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Grain Silo, Loch
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. '15 Port Augusta Bathers' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
15 Port Augusta Bathers
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Boy #2, Port Augusta Jetty' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Boy #2, Port Augusta Jetty
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Port Victoria Main Street' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Port Victoria Main Street
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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Katrin Koenning. 'Pool #2, Whyalla Foreshore Motel' 2013

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Katrin Koenning
Pool #2, Whyalla Foreshore Motel
2013
From the series Loraine and the Illusion of Illoura
Pigment Print
80cm x 80cm
Edition 5 +2AP

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The Colour Factory Gallery
409 – 429 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3056
T: +61 3 9419 8756

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm
Saturday 1 – 4pm

Katrin Koenning website

Jessie Boylan website

Colour Factory 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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