A visual essay: Photographic Works from Central Australia, by Robert Lee
Decoy Café Bar Gallery, 303 Exhibition St, Melbourne
7 November 2016 - 2 March 2017
Review by Shelley Vincent
The desert centre of Australia may conjure up a scene that is coloured red, where it is not brown, but some of the photos in this exhibition show that the desert may be many hued. Ormiston Gorge and Gum Study, Ormiston Gorge show the green side of this land. The green of gum trees and the deep green of a water hole. Landscape Study, Alice Springs has many colours in it also. There are a variety of grey, from soft dove to steel grey, as well as yellows, pinks, turquoise and green. The shadows provide another colour. The deep shadow in 3 Climbers, Uluru is a presence in the landscape. As if it is a guardian spirit looking out over the land. In Valley of the Winds, in Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) the contrast of the deep shade against the brilliant blue sky and deep orange rock gave me the feeling that I was seeing eternity.
Ormiston Gorge, photo on archival paper, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, by Robert Lee
Valley of the Winds, in Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), photo on archival paper, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, by Robert Lee
The textures of the land are also presented in the many varieties. The contrast between the slate-like angles of the rock face in the foreground and the grainy softness of the undulating curves in the background in 2 Climbers, Uluru. There are knobs of pale grass, sitting like embroidered French knots, in Landscape Study, (The Old Train) Alice Springs and the fractured faces of rock outcrops in Ormiston Gorge (Quartzite Outcrop) and Quartzite Study, Ormiston Gorge. The grainy rock face contrasts with the dark velvety tree branches in Climbers, Uluru (Burnt Tree). A softer texture is the gossamer mist covering the land in First Light, Through the Mist, Alice Springs. And there is a lovely contrast between the soft mist and the dark, spiky shapes of trees poking through it. The tyre tracks and boot prints in Terra Nullus? have created their own richly textured landscape in the sand.
First Light, Uluru, photo on archival paper, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, by Robert Lee
Terra Nullus?, photo on archival paper, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, by Robert Lee
Many of the titles of the photos include the word “climbers” but I had to really look to find some of them. The human content has been effectively reduced to little dots – perhaps to show that we are not as important as we think we are. One example is Climbers, Uluru where the climbers are an insignificant fringe atop the mighty rock. The sky, rock and deep shadow are the dominant features. Humanity exists in a thin layer of atmosphere that clings to this rock we call “Earth”, spinning in the vastness of space. Our brief lives are little sparks in the darkness of time. Just as those little dots are perched upon a massive rock against an endless sky dwarfed by a huge shadow.
Climbers, Uluru (Burnt Tree), photo on archival paper, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, by Robert Lee
3 Climbers, Uluru, photo on archival paper, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, by Robert Lee
This photographic exhibition shows some different sides to Central Australia.