MoMento 8: [v]erge. Hamish Macdonald, Richard Smallfield, Jenny Tomlin

MoMento 8: [v]erge. Hamish Macdonald, Richard Smallfield, Jenny Tomlin

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MoMento 8: [v]erge. Hamish Macdonald, Richard Smallfield, Jenny Tomlin

Published by PhotoForum, May 2011

Editing and design by Jenny Tomlin and Richard Smallfield

Essay by Jenny Tomlin and John B. Turner

This issue of MoMento is based on the exhibition [v]erge held at Satellite Gallery, Auckland, 25 May to 12 June 2010, with text adapted from the catalogue and website: v-erge.co.nz

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[v]erge

Quiet back roads, languid rivers and rampant grasses link works by

three photographers: Hamish Macdonald, Richard Smallfield and

Jenny Tomlin. Each is working within their regional environment

and their shared concern is with commonplace subjects.

The physical place is less important in Macdonald’s and

Tomlin’s work, which tends toward the poetic to evoke a state

of mind, while Smallfield’s is a documentary, yet personal

take on country back roads. These complementary visions are

quiet but confident, coming from a shared philosophy and

commitment to clear, but understated commentary – of letting

things speak for themselves.

The country back roads that Richard Smallfield focuses

on – once potent icons of New Zealand’s identity – are rapidly

disappearing, although the idea of them (like Number 8 Wire)

remains in our collective subconscious, along with the freedom

and possibilities they promise. Here is a journey into the past,

into a world not peopled, but where we imagine the likelihood

of sighting a dog just around the corner. Against this is the

realisation that these places are fast disappearing and being

swallowed up by the demand for lifestyle developments. Like

rural capillaries, these roads, hidden from clogged highways,

head for Nowhere Much.

Hamish Macdonald’s work is the most ‘poetic’ of the group.

His titles reinforce his use of the landscape to reflect a state of

mind, rather than documenting a specific locality. His intelligent

use of colour and employment of fragments of phrases or lyrics

as text set up new possibilities for the viewer, in an open-ended

way. Like Smallfield’s work, there is a sense that these are

ephemeral, or remembered moments, signifying something

more profound than is perceived from a superficial viewing.

There is an underlying sense of pathos; a realisation that

something has gone.

Jenny Tomlin’s images of ‘ordinary’ objects are rendered

as if in a state of transformation. There are anthropomorphic

elements in some works, like her striding stick figure in Shadbolt

Park and her Tethered tree image. The tree is artificial, but the

juxtaposition resembles a circus animal straining on its chain.

In Shadehouse, she was fascinated by the way in which the

two-dimensional overlay of cloth renders the ‘outside’ landscape 

ambiguous – and the artificial planting, more solid. This play of

2D/3D draws the eye first to the pathway and then around the

picture, as one tries to understand how the space functions.

There are undercurrents of whimsy and disquiet in the way

these previously maintained spaces seem bent on adapting

from, then erasing our human presence.

Overall, these are three differing, yet sympathetic interpretations

emanating from immersion in the landscape.

[v]erge: a road edge, yes, but leaning more towards its

use as a verb: to hover on the edge of a situation; a state of

metamorphosis.

Jenny Tomlin and John B. Turner, March 2011

 

This issue of MoMento is based on the exhibition [v]erge held

at Satellite Gallery, Auckland, 25 May to 12 June 2010, with text

adapted from the catalogue and website: v-erge.co.nz