Experimental Practice

by Jack Willet and Hugh Hirst-Johnson

Artistic experimentation begins conceptually, contained to the makers’ mind, sketches and notes, only then to venture out into the physicality of their chosen medium. In the world of contemporary photography the medium is composed of layers, allowing for experimentation within the camera (itself a layered device), without a camera, the dark room, digital editing processes, or the found photographic archive. PHOTO 2021 is brimming with photographic experimentation, in both conceptual foundations and the medium’s articulation.


In Tachisme, Justine Varga seemingly returns to gestures perhaps found in formative concept sketches. With these marks she upsets the divide between painting and photography, playing with chemical elements and light in an act of ‘mark making’ that is distinctly photographic in its dependence on the ‘moment of action’. Group show Reconfigured/Rediscovered features artists similarly disrupting elements of photographic (and videographic) production. These experiments with disruption see us question what is an image and what is real, say in the case of Daniel Crooks, where camera and software combine to manipulate and break down footage frame by frame, splintering moments into a new sequence.


In emerging Naarm/Melbourne-based artist Aaron Christopher Rees’ solo show Horizon, experimentation continues to be centered in the post-production manipulation of the image. Rees’ new body of work highlights the deceptive quality of documentation while implicating the reader of the image. Similarly, Guy Grabowsky and Kiah Pullens’ neither here nor there sees the artists scrutinize the medium, while recognising its base level function as a documenting device, creating an installation talking to both the truth found within images and its ability to warp both truth and time. Group presentation, Not for the Sake of Something More, extends the contemporary conundrum of the truth of an image, no longer definitive, these artists ask for faith. The exhibition includes Ali McCann’s experimental staging of elements to capture still-life’s of personal nostalgia, asking us to go along with her rearticulated memory and take its new form as an informative and reflective device. Within Lillian O’Neil’s Everything Forever, misrepresentation-as-medium is present in the artists collage-based series wherein montage creates narratives absent from the original found photographs. Here we return to the duality of experimentation, found both within its conceptual underpinning and its materiality.



—Jack Willet, Curator and Hugh Hirst-Johnson, Assistant Gallery Manager, Center for Contemporary Photography

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Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March