Posts Tagged ‘Cradle Mountain

27
Apr
19

Review: ‘Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 12th May 2019

part of the CLIMARTE Festival: ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania' 1980

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania
1980
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

 

A little too perfect

A few ideas that struck me at this exhibition.

1/ The large format 4 x 5″ colour transparencies must be near absolute perfect exposures…. everything is there in the exposure. It’s as though the transparency is the finished print. Everything that Dombrovskis wanted to capture, he did. He was a perfectionist.

His previsualisation of the scene was exceptional. He knew what he wanted to capture, he was so focused on it. The beauty is there, but how do you make it sing? Only in a few images was I swept off my feet.

2/ His use of ‘near far’ is noticeable, taken from Ansel Adams most likely. In photographs like Morning light on Little Horn (1995), Cushion plants, Mount Anne (1984) and Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth (1986) your eye is led from the detailed foreground to the magnificent vista beyond.

3/ In photographs such as Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon (1979) and Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness (1995) the subject seems to dissolve into Abstract Expressionist compositions.

4/ The wall colours of the exhibition utterly failed the work, especially with the line colour change running through the image.

5/ I never really felt the “sublime” nature of the Tasmanian wilderness in these photographs. I wanted to be transported to the place that was pictured but it never happened.

6/ I suspect this has to do with a/ the perfection of the transparency b/ the size at which these contemporary photographs were printed, and c/ the almost scientific, analytical nature of the contemporary printing.

 

I had no sense or feeling for place or “atmosphere” that emanates from a truly great photograph. These large prints were wholly disappointing in that regard. They were nearly all printed at the same size, too big, with the same monotonous clarity of composition and balancing of print, one to the other. Almost a clinical printing with too much colour saturation with no room for chaos or vibration of energy.

When printing, I was taught to rack the enlarger up and down to find when the print becomes like a jewel. This is a felt response to the negative, and an image can have several positions or print sizes when this may occur. To print the bulk of these digital images at the same size goes against this very intuitive response to the work.

There are so many moves that can be justified by an objective argument when making a fine art print – but which still don’t add up when you view the whole. Oh! to see five vintage prints in this exhibition, to see how Dombrovsksi would have printed them himself.

I really wanted to like these photographs but when you try and force something, it ain’t ever going to happen.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the media photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art.

 

 

‘When you go out there, you don’t get away from it all. You get back to it all. You come home to what’s important. You come home to yourself.’

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Peter Dombrovskis

 

‘… we moved in a glittering, sun-splashed world where living assumed a clarity and intensity unknown in ordinary city-bound existence. Our bodies became attuned to rock and rapid, our senses easily absorbed the roar of white-water, the silent greens of the rainforest. My steadily growing skill at negotiating obstacles bolstered my self-confidence and eased the shyness of adolescence.’

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Peter Dombrovskis in Jane Cadzow, ‘A lasting image’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine, 22 March 1997

 

‘An ethic of the land is needed because the remaining wilderness, that which makes this island truly unique, is threatened by commercial exploitation that will destroy its value to future generations. Machines are already shattering the silence of ages, invading the last forests and damming and drowning the wild rivers and gorges.’

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Peter Dombrovskis, ‘The quiet land’ (Peter Dombrovskis Pty Ltd., Hobart 1977)

 

‘We must try to retain as much as possible of what still remains of the unique, rare and beautiful. Is there any reason why … the ideal of beauty could not become an accepted goal of national policy? Is there any reason why Tasmania should not be more beautiful on the day we leave it than on the day we came? … if we can accept the role of steward and depart from the role of conqueror; if we can accept the view that man and nature are inseparable parts of the unified whole, then Tasmania can be a shining beacon in a dull, uniform and largely artificial world.’

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Olegas Truchanas in Max Angus, ‘The world of Olegas Truchanas’ (Olegas Truchanas Publication Committee, Hobart 1975)

 

 

The photograph (above), Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979), is one of the most celebrated landscape photographs in Australian history. Commissioned by Bob Brown (later to become leader of the Greens Party), this image became synonymous with the successful campaign of the 1980s to prevent the damming of the Franklin River for hydro-electric development. It appeared on posters with the memorable yellow, triangular slogan ‘NO DAMS’ and showed Australians what would be lost under the waters of a dam should the hydroelectric scheme go ahead. Using his camera as a tool, Dombrovskis shared with society the riches that they would forgo if the environment was not protected.

The photograph below, Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth Cradle, Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986) is an image that Bob Brown had in his office at a similarly large scale to provide an immediate and memorable talking point with visitors.

Many Australians encountered these images for the first time in prosaic settings: in a newspaper campaign advertisement, a diary used at work, a calendar on the side of the fridge, or a poster in a waiting room. Most of us will never visit the places he photographed, but into our ordinary everyday lives his images bring something of the beauty and the power of the wild places of Tasmania. Seldom in the history of photography has there been such a clear example of visual culture having such a political sway.

Exhibition label

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the opening of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania' 1986

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania
1986
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Coastline north of the Pieman River, Tarkine wilderness, Tasmania (1992); at centre Kelp detail, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Kelp detail, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, ‘Macrocystis’ and ‘Hormosira’ seaweed, Tasmania (1987); and at right Giant kelp, Hasselborough Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Douglas Gorge, Douglas-Apsley National Park, Tasmania (1989); and at right, Waterfall Valley, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Waterfall Valley, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon, Tasmania (1979); and at right, Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (1945-96) was one of the world’s foremost wilderness photographers. His powerful, reflective and deeply personal images of the unique Tasmanian wilderness had a lasting impact, changing the way Australians think about their environment by making remote nature accessible through images.

Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild draws together a vast sweep of nearly 80 images, shown for the first time in Victoria. The exhibition was initially developed by the National Library of Australia from their comprehensive collection of Dombrovskis’s work.

Through their use in environmental campaigns, Dombrovskis’s images have become shorthand for environmental concerns in Australia. Particularly memorable was the image Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend that Bob Brown (later to become Leader of the Greens Party) used in the ‘No Dams’ campaign to save the Franklin River.

Seldom in the history of photography has there been as clear an example of visual culture bearing such political sway and prompting such passion in communities.

‘Dombrovskis’s ability to capture the sublime beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness led to his work becoming synonymous with the Tasmanian Wilderness conservation movement. Dombrovskis once commented “photography is, quite simply, a means of communicating my concern for the beauty of the Earth.” His work was his voice and it powerfully evoked his passion for the environment which inspired the nation to work for its protection. MGA is thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase Dombrovskis’s practice to Victorian audiences, and to inspire a new generation to embrace his unique vision and celebrate his legacy.’ ~ Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director

This exhibition was initially developed by the National Library of Australia, Canberra. In 2007, the Library acquired over 3000 colour transparencies that make up the Dombrovskis archive. The photographs on display here, which are also part of the Library’s Pictures Collection, were printed by Les Walkling on Canson Platine Fibre Rag paper by an Epson SureColor P20070.

Monash Gallery of Art and the National Library of Australia would like to acknowledge Peter’s widow, Liz Dombrovskis, and thank her for her guidance and support for this project.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website Cited 13/03/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Cushion plant mosaic, Tasmania (1980); at middle, Macquarie Island cabbage at Finch Creek, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right, Web and dew, Waterfall Valley, Tasmania (1985)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania (1984)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Icicles near Big Bend, Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1992); at middle, Ice patterns on the Labyrinth, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986); and at right, Ice patterns, Lake Elysia, Du Cane Range, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1995)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1995

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania
1995
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Snow gum on the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania (1988); and at right Shore lichen on granite, east Freycinet, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania (1989)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Shore lichen on granite, east Freycinet, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania (1989)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Ancient ‘Nothofagus gunnil’, Cradle Mountain, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill with, at right, Polished quartzite above Irenabyss, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Polished quartzite above Irenabyss, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Pencil pine at Pool of Siloam, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania' 1982

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Pencil pine at Pool of Siloam, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania
1982
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at middle left, The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1995); and at right, Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at left, The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1995); and at right, Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania
1995
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Peter Dombrovskis. 'Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania' 1990

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania
1990
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at left, Painted cliffs, Maria Island National Park, Tasmania (1991); and at right, Painted cliffs, Maria Island, Tasmania (1991)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill with, at left, Beach detail with shells, Louisa Bay, Southwest National Park, Tasmania (1993); at middle, Abalone shell at New Habour, southwest Tasmania (1988); and at right, Native pigface, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania' 1979

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania
1979
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Snow on pencil pine, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990); and at right, Fruiting lichen and ice, the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Cradle Mountain from Hounslow Heath, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1982); at middle, Snow-encrusted shrubbery, Central Highlands, Tasmania (1990); and at right, Icicles on fire-killed snow gums, south of Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Dunes and granite near Interview River, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1990)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis

Peter Herbert Dombrovskis was born in a World War II refugee camp in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1945 to Latvian parents. His father, Karl, went missing at the end of the war and in 1950 his mother, Adele, moved the pair of them to Hobart, Tasmania; as far from the war-torn Europe and the war as imaginable. Adele was a keen naturalist and encouraged Peter’s photography, buying him a 35mm Zeiss camera to experiment with when he was just six.

In the early 1970s, Dombrovskis established a working pattern of making five or six two-week journeys into the wilds of Tasmania each year. His first calendar was produced in 1972, his first diary in 1976 and his first book The quiet land in 1977. He set up his own publication company, West Wind Press, in 1977. His second wife Liz, continued to run West Wind Press, producing calendars, books and diaries, until 2009. In 1996, while hiking and photographing near Mount Hayes in south-west Tasmania’s Western Arthur Range, Dombrovskis suffered a heart attack and died. He was 51 years old.

 

The sublime

The photographs of Dombrovskis carry on a rich tradition of depicting the wild places of Tasmania as Romantic landscapes. Romanticism was a cultural movement in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries that emphasised the senses, emotion and spontaneity at the expense of order, rationality and intellect. Particularly influential was the Romantic idea of the sublime. Unlike the picturesque landscape, which was attractive and charming but tame and unthreatening, the sublime landscape dramatises nature’s overwhelming power and grandeur. It shows the natural world untouched and uncompromised by human intervention, provoking feelings of awe, even fear, and reminding the viewer that wilderness is a valuable resource to respect, not exploit. Dombrovskis’s images demonstrate nature’s powerful splendour but they also have a quiet, reflective quality that draws the viewer into an intimate conversation with the natural world. This is, perhaps, achieved through his habit of including the unexpected and sensitive details within a landscape, as well as the marvellous and dramatic vistas. Dombrovskis was passionate about the vast and rugged beauty of his adopted home, but also curious about nature, seeing it as both mysterious and welcoming.

 

Influences

The photographer most often connected with Dombrovskis is Olegas Truchanas. The two men shared backgrounds as refugees from war-torn Central Europe. Together the two would explore Tasmania, marvelling at and photographing the beauty of their natural surroundings. They were adventurers and photographers in equal measures and both died in pursuit of these passions. It was Truchanas who introduced Peter to the political nature of landscape photography. In the 1960s, he would stage slide-shows in the Hobart City Hall, pairing his images with classical music and speaking about society’s responsibility for the natural planet. Many of Truchanas’s slides were lost in a bushfire that took his home in 1967, and it was in 1972, when he was out rebuilding his archive of images of the south-west that he drowned in the Gordon River. It was Peter who found Truchanas’s body in the water after days of searching.

‘I like to think I’m carrying on where Olegas left off, in my own way, finishing the work that he started.’

Dombrovskis’s photographic style was also influenced by the great American landscape photographers:

‘I enjoy Ansel Adams for his finely controlled and logical composition; Edward Weston for his intense identification with subject matter; Brett Weston for his strikingly graphic structural forms; Paul Caponigro for images that intimate the mysterious and the unknowable; and Eliot Porter for compositional subtlety and delicate colour harmony.’

 

Legacy

Dombrovskis’s contribution to the environmental movement is profound but his technical ability and artistry as a photographer are equally celebrated. In February 2003, he was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, an honour afforded to only 76 other innovators in the art form’s history. He is the only Australian to be honoured in this way and sits alongside those who influenced him, such as Ansel Adams and Edward and Brett Weston and Eliot Porter. Dombrovskis’s work has been acquired by several of Australia’s major cultural institutions and is part of the collections of the National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Monash Gallery of Art.

 

Equipment

Dombrovskis’s preferred camera was the Linhof Master Technika. Requiring 4 x 5 inch film, almost 16 times larger than that used in a standard 35mm camera, the Linhof was heavy and cumbersome, forcing Dombrovskis to take more care and time in setting up his shots and making each of these images the result of physical and mental endurance, as well as involved decision-making.

‘… because sheet film is expensive and loading it is slow and tedious, I seldom take more than one exposure of each subject. This occasionally leads to bitter regret when I misjudge exposure after spending, perhaps, an hour on a single image.’

Smaller 35mm or contemporary digital cameras would have allowed Dombrovskis ease of use and immediacy, but this would have come at the expense of the extraordinary detail he could achieve with his Linhof. When walking for a week in the wilderness, Dombrovskis carried the required supplies, as well as the camera and around 50 sheets of film; a heavy pack in rugged terrain.

 

Tasmania

‘I took photographs for the simple pleasure of recording objects and places that were important to me, and because the discipline of photography increased my awareness of Tasmania’s beauty and made me appreciate more clearly the value of its wilderness.’

The work of Dombrovskis helped to change perceptions of the Tasmanian wilderness. In 1982 the area that he photographed was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. His photograph Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979), which is located at the beginning of this exhibition, was integral to the successful campaign to prevent the Tasmanian Hydro Electric Commission damming the Gordon and Franklin rivers.

Dombrovskis’s photographs showed Australians what would be lost under the waters of a dam should the hydroelectric scheme go ahead, and many credit this image as helping to sway the Federal election in favour of Bob Hawke’s Australian Labor Party, which promised to save the Franklin River. It is rare and noteworthy that a photograph might carry such social and political sway.

Exhibition label text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at right, Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1981)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1981

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania
1981
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Bark of snow gum, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987); and right, Red phase of deciduous beech, ‘Nothofagus gunnii’, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1988)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Red phase of deciduous beech, 'Nothofagus gunnii', Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1988

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Red phase of deciduous beech, ‘Nothofagus gunnii’, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania
1988
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Frost on snow berry (Gaultheria hispida) leaves, Milles Track, Mount Wellington, Tasmania, June 1990' 1990

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Frost on snow berry (Gaultheria hispida) leaves, Milles Track, Mount Wellington, Tasmania, June 1990
1990
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo (1985); and at right, Reflections in mist, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania (1994)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo (1985)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo' 1985

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo
1985
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Reflection pool, Walls of Jerusalem National Park,Tasmania (1990); and at right, Morning mist in myrtle forest, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1981)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1988

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1988
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, southwest Tasmania (1988); and at right, Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania (1992)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania' 1992

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania
1992
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Cushion plants, Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Cushion plants, Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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13
May
12

Review: ‘Jacqui Stockdale: The Quiet Wild’ at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 19th May 2012

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After a slow start to the season there has be a veritable feast of excellent photography exhibitions in Melbourne over the last month or so, including John Gollings and Jane Brown at Edmund Pearce Gallery, the Fred Kruger and Light Works exhibitions (at NGVA and NGVI respectively), Littoral by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory (the next local review after this one) and this exhibition, The Quiet Wild by Jacqui Stockdale at Helen Gory Galerie.

This is a very strong exhibition by Jacqui Stockdale, the metre tall colour prints (printed by the Colour Factory) displaying magnificently in the large gallery at Helen Gory. The photographs remind me of a perverse take on the ethnographic Cartes de visite that were produced during the colonial Victorian era in Australia, images of native peoples taken in studios with painted backdrops together with their cultural artefacts (which, coincidentally, can be seen in great detail and sadness in the Fred Kruger exhibition at NGVA). Drawing on personal places and stories, Mexican carnival and wrestlers masks, Indian masks, Aboriginal names and locations, Velasquez’s Las Meninas, the ghost of Frida Kahlo, rituals, gods (such as Rama) and deities, Australian scenery, performance (the process of painting the models and the outcome of this interaction), Stockdale creates a wonderful melange of archetypal characters that subvert traditional identities and narratives. Her creations “shape-shift” and frustrate attempts at categorization and assimilation.

Stockdale’s performative tactics and multiple modes of address, her polyvocal subject if you like, may be said to be an effect of textuality: “a conscious recognition and pursuit of an altogether different set of values and historical and cultural trajectories.”1 Undeniably this performative act (this “ritual spectacle”2) has links to the Bakhtin’s idea of the carnivalesque and the carnival paradigm, which accords to certain patterns of play. Stockdale inverts cultural stereotypes (which embody elements of fixity, repetition, and ambivalence) located within the realms of the fetish, the scopic, and the Imaginary in order to subvert the collective memory of viewers that have been inscribed with a stereotypical collective vernacular: her work transgresses the fantasy that plays a formative role in colonial exercises of power.3

“Bakhtin likens the carnivalesque in literature to the type of activity that often takes place in the carnivals of popular culture. In the carnival… social hierarchies of everyday life – their solemnities and pieties and etiquettes, as well as all ready-made truths – are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies. Thus, fools become wise, kings become beggars; opposites are mingled (fact and fantasy, heaven and hell).”4

In Stockdale’s world, a “world upside-down” (quite appropriate for Australia), “Each new identity is one of inversion; man becomes woman, child becomes adult, animals transform into humans and vice-versa.” Another example of this inversion can be seen in the “branding” of her photographs. In colonial Cartes de visite the sitter is, more often than not, unknown – unless it is an important person. It is the photographer’s name which is printed on the front and back of the card. In these photographs the photographers name is an illegible signature at bottom left, while the title of the person in the photograph is stamped into the work at bottom right. Here Stockdale again inverts traditional textual readings, the titles of her “photographic portraits that embody a world of mystical characters in masquerade” indecipherable to the uninitiated: a coded language of identity and place – Lagunta ManEl Gato, Les Jumeaux, Dogboy of Gondwanan, Infanta Shamanta and Rama Jaara, The Royal Shepherdess. ‘Lagunta’ is Aboriginal for Tasmanian Tiger and ‘Leeawuleena’ for the land around Cradle Mountain. ‘El Gato’ is the cat, ‘Jaara’ being the Aboriginal name for the Long Gully region and ‘Gondwanan’ the name for the southernmost of two supercontinents (the other being Laurasia) before the world split apart into the structure that we known today.

These are incredibly humorous, magical and symbolic photographs. A thought came into my mind when I was in the gallery surrounded by the work: for me they represented a vision of the Major Arcana of the Tarot (for example Jaguar Hombre could be seen as an inverted version of the Hanged Man with his foot in a figure four, the Hanged Man symbolising the need to just be in the world, yielding his mind and body to the Universal flow). The Major Arcana deal with the human condition, each card representing the joys and sorrows every man and woman can experience in a lifetime. In a way Stockdale offers us her own set of subversive Major Arcana, images that transgress the boundaries of the colonial vernacular, offering the viewer a chance to explore the heart of the quiet wild.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Helen Gory Galerie 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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Jacqui Stockdale
Rama-Jaara the Royal Shepherdess
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Les Jumeaux
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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“In this modern world of distractions there is a wild nature that stirs inside of us. A desire for transcendence, to become someone else, dance part naked and chant our lost songs so that they can be heard above the sounds of cities and mobile ring tones. 

The Quiet Wild is a series of photographic portraits that embodies a world of mystical characters in masquerade set against hand-painted landscapes. The portraits playfully mimic the genre of exotic postcards and historical paintings where a fanciful subject is formally positioned within a make-believe landscape. The hand-painted settings in my photographs feature Australian scenery from places around Australia that have meaning to me including my mother’s property in Bendigo, the Melbourne Botanical Gardens and Lake Saint Claire in Tasmania.

I paint the models bodies and combine costumes and props including my own collection of rare masks originally used in dances of Mexican Carnival. This new work responds to established portrayals of human identity and masquerade informed by my research into different aspects of folk Carnivals where the masquerades are a fusion of clandestine voodoo, ancestral memory and personal revelation ritual and performance. Performance also plays a part in my photographic process where I interact with the models and allow the process to greatly determine the outcome. Each new identity is one of inversion; man becomes woman, child becomes adult, animals transform into humans and vice-versa.

The difference between painting the human subject and taking their portrait with a camera it is that during a photo shoot there is more of an element of performance. The subject, over a period of many hours often becomes a new character, extending a side of them that is not prevalent in daily life or invents a new identity. This is brought about by what I dress them in and how I direct them, provoking certain ideas, strengths about an animal power or super natural deity. I begin with an idea of character and a selection of costumes and them work intuitively as though in the dark or with eyes part open. I rarely end up with what I first imagined and revel in the surprise or discovery of a combined effort.

The inspiration for this series of work has come from a unique, rich and beautiful form of human expression that is found in the ritual side of folk art in the cultures around the world but mostly in Mexico. The traditional dances of Mexican Carnival provide an opportunity to revive the primeval gods from the depths of our communal memory, since dance constitutes our remotest language and most primitive sacred offering. The masks I have used in this series are from these types of ritual dance. They are recontextualised and worn in the works Lagunta Man and El Gato, Les Jumeaux, Dogboy of Gonwanan, Infanta Shamanta and Carnival of the Night. Other influences come from images of Exotic Postcards, regarding the formal presentation of the models, the constructed settings and the borders and way of labeling the image. Luchadora Botanica was influenced by a Goya Painting, Negro Returno – I wanted to bring one of my recent collages to life, See ‘to return’.

What I have done is imagined my own family as part ritualistic characters, setting in them in a landscape that I have visited.”

Artist statement by Jacqui Stockdale 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale
Jaguar Hombre
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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“The ghost of Frida Kahlo is a haunting one that permeates many artists consciousness bringing with it not just a tragic story but intoxicating aromas of Mexican exotic, masks, Voo-Doo, bloody Mayan rituals and Catholicism gone troppo.

This is clearly evidenced in Jacqui Stockdale’s latest exhibition at Helen Gory Galerie in works such as Negro-Returno, Long Gully. The white lacy heart-shaped overlay of ghostly trees conceals a part-portrait of Frida here depicted in front of Long Gully Bendigo, the Stockdale property, after the Black Saturday bush fire three years ago. This haunting shadowy backdrop appears again in Rama Jaara, The Royal Shepherdess, ‘Jaara’ being the Aboriginal name for the Long Gully region. It is a personal aside of something that obviously touched this artist deeply, one to which she has bought her troupe of tableau vivant players to. Here, a Mauritian girl called Mimi, standing at attention, arms akimbo, dressed in remnants of regal colonial attire. The pose reminiscent of that of the Infanta Margarita in Velasquez’s Las Meninas. The dog has moved from bottom right to bottom left, here a small spotted Chinese Joss paper effigy made for the journey to the afterlife, rather than a great bounding Spanish mastiff. Our young self-possessed Mimi stares directly out of the picture space not as an Infanta, but as one of nature’s children, a shepherdess, her hairstyle resembling a ram’s head, informing that part of the title, ‘Rama’ a play on words.

Both the artists brothers are also players in this tableau: the younger as Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena and the artist’s twin as El Gato, van Diemonia. ‘Lagunta’ is Aboriginal for Tasmanian Tiger and ‘Leeawuleena’ for the land around Cradle Mountain. ‘El Gato’ is the cat, and both carrying a filmic reference to the recent movie The Hunter, filmed around Cradle Mt in Northern Tasmania. While the compositional phrasing has more than a nostalgic whiff of 19th century still studio photography, seen here such staged manners marry well to popular cinematic culture.

As this exhibition unfolds certain characterising concerns appear and reappear. Decapitation, and cross-cultural iconography make this a lavish art dining at the high table of pictorial fusion cuisine. Mexican masks, Joss paper, skulls, rites of passage tit-bits mix it with popular culture on the shag pile to produce a totally new hybrid. Folk memories merge with diaristic experiences, found objects flirt with finely painted trompe-oeil effects in an almost self-regulating metamorphosis.

In this Stockdale becomes a sort of gatekeeper, a ring master choreographer who will both mystify and amaze you with her family carnivale. Picture by picture, costume by costume, the staged imagined and the real, combine into a most fascinating enticement I find impossible to resist.”

Catalogue essay by Jeff Makin, 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale
Dogboy of Gondwanan
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Negro Returno, Long Gully
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Luchadora Botanica
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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1. Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 227 – 228.

2. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World (trans. Helene Iswolsky). Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968, p.5.

3. “According to Bhabha, stereotypes are located within the realms of the fetish, the scopic, and the Imaginary. He suggests that fantasy plays a formative role in colonial exercises of power. Bhabha describes the mechanism of cultural stereotypes as embodying elements of fixity, repetition, fantasy, and ambivalence, and suggests that if certain types of images are constantly presented in a range of different contexts, they will become imprinted onto the collective memory of viewers and inscribed within a collective vernacular.”

Vercoe, Caroline. “Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, p.240.

4. Anon. “Carnivalesque,” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 13/05/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnivalesque

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Helen Gory Galerie
25 St Edmonds Rd
Prahran VIC 3181
T: +61 3 9525 2808

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11am – 5pm

Helen Gory Galerie website

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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, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr 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.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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