In this article I offer my review of some of the exhibitions. As all such reviews are, these are my personal response to the exhibitions I saw. I did not set out to see all the exhibitions. Along the way I stumbled across some other exhibitions that either were not in the program or that I hadn’t intended to see.
In this article I look at some exhibitions in Creswick and then move on to the Alternative Fringe exhibitions in Trentham and Tylden.
The Elephant Patch
Kara Rasmanis’ Unlocking the secrets of flight exhibition of photogravure prints of wings, bees, butterflies and cicadas are stunning images. Printed quite small, these are lovely images that draw you in close and do not disappoint.
Creswick Woollen Mills
Rob Thomas’ Mullock is a great exhibition of the mountains of material left over from the myriad mines in the area of Creswick. The images have strong, saturated colour and are really amazing.
Next door to the Creswick Woolens Mills is an exhibition that didn’t make it into the BIFB catalogue.
Bill Beath’s fractal images are not photography at all, yet are some of the strongest images in the whole biennale, in my view. Works of pure abstraction, these are not pure fractal images. While Bill uses fractal processes (running a mathematical equation through software repetitively to produce an image) but then extensively modifies the image to get exactly the result he wants. The most striking work is the panoramic Cataclysms series of five images. The prints in the show are large digital prints full of great detail.
The Trentham Fringe
A festival within a festival, all the exhibitions are based around alternative or historical processes.
The Print Exposed contains work by Gene Bagdonas, Steve Tester and Ellie Young. Ellie Young exhibited salt prints and albumen prints of plants, as well as colour gum bichromates. These are excellent images and beautifully printed. Gene Bagdonas’ ziatypes are masterful, with light through trees and fog. Truly stunning. Steve Tester exhibited strong palladium prints.
Tim Rudman separately exhibited his Tree Works series of silver gelatin images of trees (obviously). The strongest works involved mist and light. These were very striking images.
Red Beard Gallery
Transfer of Meaning by Lynette Zeeng and Silvi Glattauer is a strong exhibition. Lynette exhibited Polaroid transfers of flowers and fruit. Some of the best Polaroid transfers I’ve seen. Silvi exhibited photogravure images of plants. Most were shown as four image panels while several were single images. Beautifully printed and shot images.
Noah’s Inn, Tylden
Tony Peri’s Rockin ‘n’ Rythym exhibition of contemporary photography taken with 1920’s camera gear of the Sydney annual 1950’s recreation event is an exciting exhibition. These are bromoil prints and work well. The best images were, for me, the ones that capture movement.
Karl Koenig’s Time and Tide Wait for no Man exhibition of gum oil prints were one of the highlights of the whole biennale for me. These subtly yet richly coloured images feature dense blacks and strong design. He also exhibited lovely mono prints of birds that were very memorable.
Annette Willis’ Reimagined Topographies were very nicely printed and strong silver gelatin prints.
Jill Lacina’s Fondness exhibition had a zen-like quality of calm reflection. She showed cyanotype, Vandyke and blue vandyke photograms of plants. Simply stunning work, some of the best of its type I have seen.
Mike Ware’s Iron & Icon exhibition of new cyanotype and chrysotype images was technically perfect, but I must say the images themselves did not stimulate me. That doesn’t make them bad images, just they did not excite me beyond the processes used.
The Pig + Whistle
Maija McDougal’s Searching exhibition of bromoil transfer prints was really strong work and quite striking.
Hans Nohlberg and Chian-Lofqvist exhibited tri-colour carbon prints. I particularly liked The Still Lores.
Wendy Currie and Trish Simpson exhibited the Print Exposed. Wendy exhibited a mix of cyanotype and Vandyke brown images that were strikingly effective and well hung to make use of the two colours. Trish exhibited new cyanotypes of photographs and photograms, as well as polaroid and Fuji emulsion transfers. I found the emulsion transfer images less effective but the cyanotype images were striking.
Trentham Railway Station
Karena Goldfinch’s Oil paint on paper exhibition of nine gumoil images was grainy and mysterious. The images were very appealing.
Robert F. Green showed two carbon prints that were luxurious and luscious.
Summing Up and a Challenge
Overall, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale was well worth attending for the exhibition program, both core and fringe. There were strong exhibitions in Ballarat, Creswick and Trentham. My creativity was stimulated by many of the exhibitions and I came away feeling the two full days I spent looking at exhibitions was well worth the time.
I would advise fringe exhibitors to get someone to give their exhibitions in future a curatorial eye, since some mixed outstanding images with far less successful ones and one needs to be very careful that this does not let down the whole exhibition. If all the images had been at the same standard as the best, the show would have been outstanding. Some fringe exhibitors need to also pay more attention to the opening hours of their venues to ensure they are open during the peak viewing times and then make sure the venue lives up to its commitment.
The Trentham fringe was outstanding, as it showed these old processes can produce striking images and have a place in the modern world. However, I was struck by the conservative nature of some of the images so printed. They worked, and worked extremely well, but I would really be hard pushed to call some of it contemporary photography. My concern with this is that if this is as far as these alternative processes go then they will just draw conservative, backwards looking collectors, and thus will not get the attention they deserve from a wider audience.
So my challenge to the alternative process community is that I would love to see really edgy, controversial, confronting and leading edge images that really push some boundaries. Revolutionary rather than evolutionary, and where the process used contributes in a core way to the strength and meaning of the image. A stunning process and striking images has to be a winning combination. These processes deserve to be back in the mainstream.