In Counterpoint to the Music of Time

In Counterpoint to the Music of Time

A review of Aberhart Starts Here


Max Oettli for Landfall Review Online

October 2, 2018

Aberhart Starts Here by Lara Strongman with Laurence Aberhart (Christchurch Art Gallery, 2018), 136 pp., $39.99

This catalogue is based on the Christchurch Art Gallery show of Aberhart’s early work (1975 to 1983 with one picture from 1986), from when he was living in Lyttelton and later working as an instructor at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Art at Ilam.

My initial thought was to wonder: have we got to a point when everything that can be written about Laurence Aberhart has been written? Can we squeeze one more review out of this gigantic stack of beautiful work that he has shored up against the crumbling ruins of our civilisation?

Aberhart’s work contrasts sharply with the fast snaps of contemporary photographers all around him—those instant insights in a Zen-like flash—and our response needs to be rather more contemplative. We study, rather than glimpse, and the pictures reward our patience. They were made slowly; they need time. Do we occasionally have just a tiny smidge of boredom at his repetition of subjects, which, God knows, are pretty seriously limited? We could, in a Borgésian sense, make exhaustive lists of the things Aberhart does NOT photograph. This visual filtering occasionally leads to an element of self-caricature in his approach. Bored? Hardly at all: the shadow of the giant carries us through; watch him raising his fist in a silhouette the size of a elephant on the wall of a cemetery shed. Aotearoa’s biggest photographer messing about with shadow play in Plato’s cave …

Read the full review at Landfall Review Online

Read the PhotoForum review of the exhibition Aberhart Starts Here