Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Narelle Au­tio, Ge­orge Street (An­gel), 2001. Murry Art Mu­seum Al­bury Col­lec­tion. Gift of the Rus­sell Mills Foun­da­tion, 2015. On dis­play at MAMA un­til May 1. Ear­lier this year a pho­to­graph of a man ly­ing on the road with his pants fall­ing down and his hand reach­ing for a bot­tle of beer went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.

The pho­to­graph, taken on New Year’s Eve in Manch­ester’s city cen­tre, was brought to Twit­ter’s at­ten­tion by a BBC pro­ducer who com­pared the im­age to a beau­ti­ful paint­ing. That one tweet was retweeted about 30,000 times. The pho­to­graph was also turned into nu­mer­ous memes us­ing Michelan­gelo’s The Cre­ation of Adam, Seu­rat’s Bathers at As­nieres and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

De­spite the hype, pho­tog­ra­pher Joel Good­man, who works for the Manch­ester Evening News, was far more cir­cum­spect about his achieve­ment, de­scrib­ing it as a case of sim­ply be­ing “in the right place at the right time”. He added that “there are street pho­tog­ra­phers who reg­u­larly make art of th­ese sort of scenes.”

Good­man’s “be­ing in the right place at the right time” echoes masters of pho­tog­ra­phy such as Henri Cartier-Bres­son, who be­lieved in cap­tur­ing the de­ci­sive mo­ment and see­ing the un­usual in the ev­ery­day, or Ansel Adams, whose take was: “Some­times I ar­rive just when God’s ready to have some­one click the shut­ter.” In a nut­shell, it is what some crit­ics have re­ferred to as that amaz­ing in­stant when life be­comes po­etry.

Such mo­ments, vi­gnettes of life, are elo­quently cap­tured in works such as Ge­orge Street (An­gel) by Narelle Au­tio, on dis­play at the Mur­ray Art Mu­seum Al­bury, on the bor­der of NSW and Vic­to­ria.

Au­tio, who was born in Ade­laide, com­pleted a vis­ual arts de­gree be­fore join­ing Ade­laide’s The Ad­ver­tiser as a pho­to­jour­nal­ist. Af­ter ex­ten­sive travel over­seas, she re­turned to Syd­ney in 1998 to con­tinue work­ing as a pho­tog­ra­pher. In 2000 she be­gan ex­hibit­ing her prints, of­ten col­lab­o­rat­ing with her hus­band, fel­low pho­tog­ra­pher Trent Parke.

When I visit Al­bury, I am shown Ge­orge Street (An­gel) by cu­ra­tor Bianca Aci­movic, who says Au­tio’s vi­brant im­ages have won her wide­spread ac­claim and an im­pres­sive list of ac­co­lades. For in­stance, Au­tio has twice won World Press Photo awards as well as Walk­ley awards. She was the first Aus­tralian to win the Le­ica Oskar Bar­nack Award for her se­ries Coastal Dwellers. She has also twice turned up in Art Col­lec­tor mag­a­zine’s list of the 50 most col­lectable Aus­tralian artists.

In Ge­orge Street (An­gel), Au­tio cap­tures a mo­ment when a taxi has pulled over on one of Syd­ney’s main thor­ough­fares. Into that taxi steps an an­gel but we can’t see the an­gel’s face. The street is dark ex­cept for the glow of pass­ing cars and a red Christ­mas tree across the road.

Au­tio ob­serves daily life with the cu­rios­ity and at­ten­tion to small de­tails of a for­eigner in a strange land, says Bron­wyn Ren­nex, di­rec­tor of Syd­ney’s Stills Gallery, which has shown Au­tio’s work for the past 16 years.

“Narelle Au­tio takes a lyri­cal and whim­si­cal look at the world around us,” Ren­nex tells me when I ask about Ge­orge Street (An­gel).

“What­ever the sub­ject, Au­tio’s af­fec­tion­ate ob­ser­va­tions of daily life have a touch of magic re­al­ism. The im­age is a great ex­am­ple. It al­lows the viewer to take an imag­i­na­tive leap out of the ev­ery­day.

The light fall­ing on the an­gel’s wings height­ens the feel­ing of tran­scen­dence.

“She could be an an­gel from a Pre-Raphaelite paint­ing — per­haps not sur­pris­ingly as Au­tio worked in paint be­fore pho­tog­ra­phy. But, un­aware of this mag­i­cal mo­ment, the cab driver brings us back to re­al­ity.”

Pig­ment print, 400mm x 600mm

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.