Art Chat by the curator of the McClalland Gallery
Date: December 6 2012
Venue: John Gollings Photographic Exhibition at McClalland Gallery
The exhibition at McClelland of John Gollings work has drawn me back to the gallery three times in the past month or so. More like paintings than photographs, the textures and colours in these very large prints drew me in with their haunting shadows and the lack of foliage revealing the shape of the earth beneath the now stripped and burnt trees.
John Gollings began his career as a student of architecture, with photography as his means of making some money on the side. He was fortunate to be able to work as an assistant to a prominent Australian photographer before going on to later spend some time with Ansal Adams in the United States. John spent time working in the advertising industry and he became well known for his beautiful architectural photography, done in his early career for colleagues from university who had gone on to establish businesses than wanted his expertise to show off their new buildings in the best light and with his unique and artistic view.
John has had a long interest in “dead cities” which are usually abandoned cities, temples etc in such countries as Cambodia, India etc. The interaction of the abandoned man made structures with the landscape and nature slowly taking over has been one if his passions. John also did a series of photos in Death Valley in the United States. Unlike many others he did his work in the middle of the day to show the intensity of the light and the multitudes of shades of grey in the mid day landscape.
Many of his photos which look like black and white on second look are actually monochromes (taken to mean the same as black and white or, more likely, greyscale, but may also be used to refer to other combinations containing only tones of a single color, such as green and white or green and black. It may also refer to sepia displaying tones from light tan to dark brown). When you look closer at some of these prints the subtle use of colours reveal themselves. Some of the others in this collection in particular are vivid with colour. They are my favourites.
Unlike a lot of modern photographers, even with the use of digital photography, John uses very little computer manipulation to produce his final prints. He has a wide variety of lenses and relies on good quality cameras and his skill with his equipment rather than attempting to improve something later in software or with the printer.
The main words I came up with to describe John Gollings work in this exhibition were Geometry, Texture, Design, Contrast, Tone and Senstivity. Senstivity because John waited a few years before showing these works because of his feelings for all those who lived through the horrific fires on Black Saturday. Also because he has not included any people or animals in any of these works. It is all about the landscape.
This leaves us free to interpret each photograph as we see it. The emotion or appreciation of the lines, curves and textures of each scene is totally up to the viewer without any emotional input via suffering human or creature.
I liked this exhibition so much I have purchased the book so that I can go back to these scenes again and again. As an artist and someone with an interest in history, nature and photography as well, I really like where John is coming from with his work. I strongly encourage any artists, art lovers or photographers to call in to this exhibition at McClelland to see this collection for yourself.