Abstract photography

‘Photography’ means ‘writing with light’ and that’s what we do with the camera – write or (better) draw on the film or sensor with the light coming through the lens. There’s nothing to say the picture must be realistic or even representational, and these few don’t try to be.

swirls of colour on dark background
Gesture 1
swirls of colour on dark background
Gesture 2
bars of colour on dark background
Gesture 3

Sitting on Picnic Bay beach on Magnetic Island on Sunday evening I liked the lights of Townsville across the bay. My camera told me it wanted a very long exposure to capture them – four or five seconds – so I thought I would make a virtue of necessity  and move the camera around deliberately while the shutter was open. Two different gestures with the camera produced the first two images.

On the ferry approaching the brightly-lit docks a little later I did the same sort of thing with a rather shorter exposure to produce the third image above.

Is it art? Who cares?

Surely the better question is, “Do I like it?”

And each of us must answer for ourselves.

Grab bag: the art of climate change

Climate change is a science-heavy issue with enormous social and political implications so it makes sense that responses to it come from all sorts of people in all sorts of media. This little collection looks at visual art.

There was an excellent exhibition of art inspired by climate change in Melbourne a couple of months ago. It was reported on ABC TV’s 7.30 and that report is now available as video and transcript at http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3416543.htm. (The video is also on YouTube.) Metro Gallery’s page about its show, here, doesn’t add much but does mention a film of the project, which could be worth tracking down, too.

Looking for it a few minutes ago, I came across an American sculptor, Nathalie Miebach,  who translates climate numbers into colourful artworks which look more like intriguingly complicated toys than anything else. Read the article here and, if you like, click through to the associated photo gallery.

I have known the work of street artist Banksy for quite a long time but I haven’t mentioned it on Green Path before. Here is his graphic comment on global warming.

Political cartoons are also art, of a kind, and that is my excuse for squeezing Climatesight’s collection of cartoons http://climatesight.org/image-collection/ into this post. Here’s a sample from it to encourage you to investigate further:

Cartoon: people queuing for "A Reassuring Lie" and bypassing "An Inconvenient Truth"

P.S. (27.3.12) Just found a couple more here – scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Ephemera in the Mist

straw figure in rainforest
Straw Lady

The villagers of Paluma, high in the rainforest an hour or two north of Townsville, seem to have been collectively inspired by the city’s ‘Strand Ephemera.’

Their ‘Ephemera in the Mist’ last weekend emulated Townsville by presenting a series of ‘ephemeral’ sculptures and installations beside the main road and threaded along a tiny walking track through the rainforest on the edge of town, and went one better by complementing that show with a more conventional exhibition in the community hall, stalls selling art and craft works, and workshops.

Visitor numbers on Sunday were good without making it feel crowded. The weather helped the event live up to its name with mist, fine drizzle, brief showers and sunny breaks on a five minute rotation. We enjoyed the change, actually, after so many months without rain in town. I don’t know which artwork won the ‘people’s choice’ award but we had no doubt of our own favourite, Marion Gaemers’ nearly life-size Straw Lady sitting comfortably on a mossy rock beside the tiny creek.

Other sculptures were less ephemeral, or more. Unfired clay sculptures were already dissolving back into the ground; fragile constructions of sticks and twine modelled on bower-birds’ bowers were not going to last much longer; and the mandala by Sue Taylor explicitly, and beautifully, celebrated ‘the cycles of birth, growth, death and renewal of the rainforest plants.’

Leaf-litter mandala

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, sand mandalas are made to be equally ephemeral; their value as meditation objects is in the focus needed to construct them and they are ritually unmade soon after they are completed. Here’s one I saw made by the Gyuto monks in Hobart in 2008:

Sand mandala
Sand Mandala
Mandala detail
Mandala detail

Strand Ephemera

The city council runs a biennial art show on our beachfront, the Strand, and it is always worth visiting. I mentioned it here a week ago but it deserves more notice than that so here are some of my photos of it. As usual, clicking on a small image will take you to a bigger one.

Anemone on rock face
Erica Gray: Rock Anemone

If you started at the Rockpool end of the Strand, this giant fabric anemone is one of the first artworks you would have seen.

Around the other side of the Rockpool, there was a series of playful reo-rod and wire sculptures, a little more than life-size. From there on, it was a matter of looking on the beach, up in the trees and on the lawns all the way down to the park behind Tobruk Pool.

Wire sculptures
Aden MacLeod: People Watching People in the Spirit
Giant crayons
Bogdanis and Hynes: Colours of the Strand
Red and white ceramic mushrooms
Jean Downes: Mushrooming
Fabric figure of child on a swing
Fibres and Fabrics Association: I Remember When















The Fibres and Fabrics group had several groups of figures in trees along the Strand, taking their theme and title from the days when children were encouraged to get outdoors and risk a few bumps and scrapes. I first saw them just on dusk …

Fabric figues on tree branch
Fibres and Fabrics: I Remember When

Artists’ responses to the word ‘Ephemera’ and the location varied widely, from taking little notice of either, through to the use of fragile and/or recycled materials and taking the environment as subject matter. One of the most ephemeral works in the show was one which also appealed to me because of my interest in meditation, the zen garden created by Helena Rador-Gibson and a team of helpers. A new pattern was raked into the sand each afternoon; it was gone again before long, of course.

Raked sand and Magnetic Island
Helena Rador-Gibson: Zen Ephemera

There were 36 artworks in the show, so there are many yet to see. Perc Tucker Gallery ran a photographic competition in association with the event and they have put entries to it on Flickr, here. Bon appetit!

Choosing at leisure

Black Cockatoo portrait
Female Black Cockatoo

Like many people, I use a rolling display of photos as a screen saver. In my case, they are a random sequence, usually drawn from unsorted recent shots. One consequence is that I might slowly grow to like a particular photo, and this one from Billabong two months ago is one of those.

I can also use it to familiarise myself with a big group of photos and at the moment I’m doing that with shots from Strand Ephemera, a public art show along our beachfront. It’s a great show this year and if you’re in Townsville you should get down to see it – soon, since it finishes on Monday.