All breathing in heaven Stephen Wickham – photography, Gracia Haby (collage), Louise Jennison (drawing)
The Geelong Art Gallery, Regional Artists’ Program, 17th August – 13th October
Gracia Gaby’s work is a collection of old postcards overlaid with old drawings/lithographic images of extinct, endangered or wild animals and birds. ‘These playful narratives evoke a bygone era where animals of all shapes, sizes and origins were free to roam.’ (gallery caption) The postcards are presented as a grid, with a section in between of Louise Jennison’s drawings.
Louise Jennison’s exquisite finely-wrought pencil drawings are cut to the shape of the bird or insect they depict. The drawings become museum-like specimens pinned to the wall. Jennison draws our attention to the plight of our birds and insects, especially the endangered status of the local Hooded Plover which nests on the beaches of Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads and Breamlea and is threatened by humans and their dogs!
Steve Wickham’s grid of large photographs (around A3 size) – all in colour, all but one shot on film – include cloudscapes (many of which are shot at sunrise or sunset), mostly without any birds etc, several images of jets, one of a hovering gull, and a large number of underwater images of underwater animals and plants of the local region (from an earlier series – Peppi vs Godzilla).
It is interesting that, at the same time as Bill Henson’s Cloud Landscapes exhibition is at AGNSW, Stephen Wickham has chosen clouds as the theme for a series of images. Many of Wickham’s photographs, with sunrise or sunset colours, are extremely colourful, in contrast to Henson’s near monochrome, and often very low key images. However, both series evoke a deeper meaning. Stephen Wickham’s cloud photograph series has a deeply personal and spiritual meaning – looking beyond death to find solace in the beauty of clouds. Unlike Hensen’s untitled images Stephen Wickhams’ cloud photographs bear titles, such as ‘Stranger beauty in last light’, Cadmium night and dark souls aloft’ and ‘Love’s light remembered’.
Stephen Wickham’s cloud images hold echoes also of the late afternoon clouds of Von Guérard’s paintings of Geelong and the Western District, the cloudscapes of WJM Turner, and the hazy skies of Streeton’s Ocean Blue, Lorne (also in the Geelong Art Gallery). Stephen Wickham has, for many years, sought to capture the effects of light on water in all its states with mysterious pristine misty snow landscapes, underwater seascapes, and, lately, this series of sky photographs.