Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

BOOKEND: Photobook Melbourne — what a read?

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Peter Lyssiotis looking at an Aperture Book

Peter Lyssiotis looking at an Aperture Book


We all know that feeling when you are really getting into a book, its narrative and flow, and then you reach the point where, as the last page is turned, you wish it could go on, and on… Photobook Melbourne (PM) was something of that kind of experience. The books seen, perhaps around 300, the exhibitions seen, and the people met now all vividly reside in memory and digital capture code.


The Photobook Melbourne event took place between February 12 to 22 it was coordinated by Heidi Romano and Daniel Boetker-Smith. It was always an ambitious undertaking. Its vision was to connect international photobook world with makers and lovers of the book from around Australia… and New Zealand. This was achieved through numerous exhibitions, library displays, photobook awards, forums and workshops.

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano  PHOTO:  Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au

Daniel Boetker-Smith + Heidi Romano PHOTO: Courtesy of Lauren Dunn www.artdocumentation.com.au


Photobook Melbourne can only be described as a massive success. The photobook community of practice needs events like these so they can band together to affirm their interest and belief in the importance and creative power of the photobook. For once, the world of photobooks has come to us, or at least Melbourne, and for that we are a stronger and more informed cohort of makers, readers, collectors and lovers of photobooks.


Some of the attendees have responded to a request for comments – others are posts from Blogs and Facebook posts…


FROM JACOB RAUPACH: Photobook Melbourne was an amazing week full of a genuinely insightful mix of talks, exhibitions and book exhibitions, with the fair during the first weekend proving to be a great networking point for the rest of the week that followed. …  I felt that the inaugural festival set an amazing benchmark for the following years! Looking forward to 2016.

FROM HARVEY BENGE‘s BLOG: On a zero to ten scale I’d give the festival a ten!  Visit his site for more commentaries about photobook

FROM CHRIS BOWES: For someone naïve to the world of photobooks, Photobook Melbourne was an eye opening experience. Although coming in as a virtual outsider to this rapidly expanding art scene, I sank my teeth into as many of the talks, exhibitions and book collections I could manage, and came away a lot more informed than I was going in. Personal favourites were the Paris Photo – Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards exhibition, where the content of the books was engaging and the calibre unmatched, and ‘The Other Photobook Forum’, where in particular Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison showed that with a little creativity and business sense one can make a buck and do what they love.

FROM LIBBY JEFFERYMomento Pro: The number of participants, visitors, books and buyers at Photobook Melbourne were fantastic and they confirmed that small press and self publishing is alive and well in Australia. The Awards and Book Fair also proved that a selection of high standard work is being created here, but a collaborative promotion and showcase of Australian photo books to the global market would benefit everyone.

FROM: ANGEL LUIS GONZALEZ FERNANDEZ  Facebook Comment     Back in Dublin after an amazing first edition of PHOTOBOOK MELBOURNE, having discovered tons of new work and books from Australia, New Zealand, and more -and having met a truckload of awesome people.

FROM KELVIN SKEWES: As someone that attended almost all of the events that were part of Photobook Melbourne I can only describe it as a tour de force for lovers of the Photobook. The festival opened on February 12th at the Centre for Contemporary Photography with Robert Zhao Renhui’s exhibition

A Guide To The Flora And Fauna Of The World and with a smoking ceremony by the traditional owners to welcome the festival to their land. Also announced on the opening night was the Australian Photobook of the year which was won by Raphaela Rosella for her unpublished book ‘We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer’ and I was humbled to be the runner up with my newspaper as photobook ‘Nauru: What was taken and what was given’. …

The main event for the first weekend of the festival was the Photobook Melbourne Book fair at CCP an event at was full of frenetic energy and far too many photobooks to browse let alone buy; amongst the many booksellers highlights included the infatigable Perimeter book with titles from Mack and Spector books and Anita Totha from Remote books who is doing to sterling job promoting photobooks from New Zealand. …

 Great thanks are due to the entire Photobook Melbourne team so thank you Heidi Romeo, Daniel Boetker-Smith, esteemed guests Ángel Luis González Fernández, Ron Jude and the Dysturb Photo Collective, festival partners and sponsors Momento Pro, Photography Studies College, Copyright Agency and venues CCP, MGA, Strange Neighbour, Colour Factory, Neo Space, Baron Said and James Makin Gallery and to all the volunteers without whom this could not have happened so thanks to Felix Wilson, Kate Robinson, Bella Capezio, Katrin Koenning and countless others.

See you next year!





Our arrival on the first weekend was delayed by my recent medical incursion so we fly into Melbourne on Wednesday. Through a friend we were able to stay in an apartment right in the middle of the city and our journeys out and about were by tram, train and lifts given by friends.


The MGA - The Home of Australian Photography

The MGA – The Home of Australian Photography

THURSDAY: We attended two book related exhibitions at the Monash Gallery of Art. Badged as the ‘Home of Australian Photography’ the gallery presented two photobook exhibitions, one of images from the collection that featured the theme of books and reading and was entitled ‘Light Reading’. The other was The Natural Collection an assemblage of books by The Photobook Club’s Matt Johnston and co-curated by Lucy Johnson. The Natural Collection brings together photobooks that explore “the harmony, tension and play” that occurs in the human relationship with nature and the natural landscape.

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

Heidi, Steph and Vicky discussing a book

The exhibition space was setup for readers to sit and work their way through a most interesting selection of Euro/American centric responses to the theme. Grand trade books sat next to simple fold ‘n’ staple zine-like booklets. We were there with Heidi Romano, Simone Rosenbauer from Sydney and MGA Gallery’s Education and Public Programs officer Stephanie Richter. We engaged in a spirited debate about book design; production methods and how to evaluate books.

That evening we attend a dinner for PM speakers, contributors, supporters and sponsors. By this stage it was acknowledged that the PM had been an enormous success so congratulatory statements were announced and a great feeling of an Australian photobook community being well and truly launched by this event.

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Vicky+Doug

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne portrait wall

Bohemian Melbourne

Bohemian Melbourne

FRIDAY MORNING: A breakfast of avocado, bacon and relish was partaken at a suburban street café while being interviewed by Australian Photography contributor Anthony McKee for a feature on photobooks. Morning tea with Robert Heather and Des Cowley at the State Library of Victoria and a visit to the SLV exhibition Bohemian Melbourne – a fascinating reflection on the creative, musical and arty sub-culture of Melbourne. Rennie Ellis’ photos contributed much to this history as well as poster art, paintings and the ephemera and memorabilia of the different eras represented by the theme.


The Library Project @ PSC

The Library Project @ PSC

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: We visited Photography Studies College to view ‘The Library Project’, a collection of photobooks brought to PM by Ángel Luis González Fernández from PhotoIreland. ‘The Library Project’ aim is to collect contemporary publications based on photography to create a public resource library. We viewed many books that are not easily available to see in Australia including Cristina de Middel’s Afronauts.


The 'OTHER' Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – a question from the floor

FRIDAY EVENING: Later that evening we were involved with The ‘OTHER’ Photobook Forum – Artists’ Books, Zinesters and the Photobook took place. We have been working on this project for a couple of months now and we were able to bring together key practitioners from these ‘other’ photobook disciplines who discussed and provided commentary on their use of the photo in the book. The participants included photomonteur Peter Lyssiotis, zinesters Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, artists’ book maker Dr Lyn Ashby, Des Cowley from the State Library of Victoria and Victoria Cooper who stood in for Georgia Hutchison who was unable to attend due to extenuating family issues.

It was an event that stirred much interest with artists like Deanna Hitti and Theo Strasser attending as well as Momento Pros’ Libby Jeffery, and photobook makers Kelvin Skewes, Daniel Boetker-Smith and Chris Bowes.


Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Jacob Raupach @ CCP

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

Aperture Books on display @ The Baron Said

SATURDAY: A day to attend artists talks at the Centre for Creative Photography by, amongst others photobookmaker Jacob Raupach and the exhibition FELL – Bought a copy of his latest book WEALTH. Following up with visits to the Momento Pro Australian Photo Book of the Year Award at the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive and the Aperture Photobook exhibition @ The Baron Said and a stimulating lunch with Peter and Tess Lyssiotis @Babkah.

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Lunch with Tess + Peter

Photobooked-out we headed back to the city by tram and had a chance meeting with Lismore artist and Siganto Artists Book Fellow Jan Davis who was attending a Print Council meeting – Only in Melbourne could strange intersections like that could happen.


SATURDAY EVENING: Melbourne White Night event

450,000 Melbournians took over the streets of the CBD – everything stayed open and performances and projections, bands and music were everywhere. Amongst other things we went to see the projections in the Dome at the State Library of Victoria at 10.30 at night – queued in line for 30 minutes with 1000s of others what a night…!



A day of traveling home to cyclone weather drenched Brisbane.




Regional Selfies: Communities and Self-Documentation

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Through documentary photography and social media Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart have explored connections with Place in urban and regional communities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The purpose of these Nocturne Projects is to capture everyday scenes of each community in nocturnal light, dusk and dawn. These images are then posted on a Nocturne project Facebook page to evoke stories, memories and shared experiences from the community.

In each project Spowart and Cooper found different ways to include community participation. In 2014, they were invited to work in Miles, a major town of the Western Downs Region of Queensland. The Nocturne Miles Community Documentary project sought to engage with the broader public to undertake self-documentation projects and skill development in nocturne photography. Both local and temporary residents who enjoy taking photos, as well as those more skilled in photography were all invited to participate. After an initial workshop, Spowart and Cooper mentored the 18 participants to create images for the project including self-portraits and daily assignments and produce Facebook reports and a zine.


Vicky and Ashleigh Campbell in a pre-event planning meeting

Vicky and Ashleigh Campbell in a pre-event planning meeting

To begin the project consultations were undertaken with staff from the Western Downs Regional Council’s Cultural Development team Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam at Dogwood Crossing to refine the project to match the needs of their community. Then centre staff sought out members of the community who could be interested in the project. Possible candidates then completed an Expressions of Interest form to provide some information on their experience and the photography tools they had access to e.g. DSLR camera, point and shoot camera, mobile phone or tablet cameras. Another important consideration was that the applicants were going to be in the region during the project to participate in briefings, workshops and shootouts as well as the final day’s zine making activity.


Project Flyer – Nocturne Miles

Project Flyer – Nocturne Miles


While numbers were limited there was a desire by the artists and Dogwood Crossing that the project accessible to as many participants and be as inclusive as possible. The one proviso was that project participants needed to live and/or work in or near Miles including the smaller surrounding towns or on properties/work camps in the Miles district.

The participants engaged with the project in a variety of different ways including:

  • An initial introduction to the project and skill development workshop;
  • Guided evening photography shoot-outs in the main Street of Miles as well as at the Miles Historic Village;
  • Daily photo tasks over the week of the project assigned through a project Facebook group;
  • Optional mentoring sessions, where required, to enable images to be prepared and uploaded for the project;
  • Display of participants photos to a digital screen at Dogwood Crossing; and
  • A practical ‘zine’ making workshop.


Doug doing a briefing

Doug doing a briefing

The project began on Sunday November 30 with an introductory workshop, briefing and a shootout. Progressively images were collated and uploaded to the Nocturne Miles Community Facebook page. Each day a new topic was presented a challenge and their interpretation formed into a photocollage. Communication with the participants was made through a private Facebook group page that enabled hear 24hour contact with participants and Cooper+Spowart. Some participants came into Dogwood Crossing with their photos or with requests for support in making and/or optimising better photographs. On Wednesday evening special access was provided to the Miles Historical Village for group to experiment with ‘painting with light’ and ‘projection’ techniques.


The Nocturne Miles participants at Miles Historical Village


Facebook page

Facebook page


Cooper and Spowart added their images to the Facebook page as well and some visitors to the page posted stories about the places pictured. By the project’s end the page had 241 Page Likes, 60 Posts and the Total Reach was 17,771. Both the group page and the community page are still active.

Vicky and Doug in the Dogwood Crossing foyer

Vicky and Doug in the Dogwood Crossing foyer


Some of the photocollages that formed the 8 page Zines that were made using the Dogwood Crossing’s A3 colour photocopier. These were cut and folded into zines that were inserted into a red and yellow special edition of the Centre for Regional Arts Practice’s Artists Survey Books.


Nocturne Miles Zine making workshop

Nocturne Miles Zine making workshop


Some of the Photocollages

Breakfast – Nocturne Miles

Breakfast – Nocturne Miles

Water – Nocturne Miles

Water – Nocturne Miles

Miles Historical VilliageSelfies – Nocturne Miles

Miles Historical Villiage – Nocturne Miles


The photocollages presented here are examples of the image sets created by the participants. It is interesting to note that the original images may have emanated from all camera formats fro iPhone, simple digital point-n-shoot to sophisticated DSLRs.

We hear a lot about documentary photographers and student photographers travelling out into the country to create documents of life outside of the metropolis. Once on the ground these photographers seek out subjects to pursue and photograph. In this way significant documents are created of these outlying communities. However, the subject of the of the photographer’s gaze, and what is photographed, is based on the view of ‘outsiders’. The photographs they make may match preconceived ideas, and mythologised opinions, that they bring with them rather than how the people who inhabit these places feel about how and where they live.

What the Nocturne Miles project shows is perhaps that in an age where everyone can be a photographer what is important is the photograph itself. What then stands out the most is the link between the photograph and it’s authenticity. With this in mind these photographs are actual fragments of the lives of local people, whether they are from the farm, or people engaged in extractive industries, or those who work in administration roles or students at school, their voice in this conversation adds another view we can have of our regional communities.


The project was undertaken between November 21 and December 7 2014 and was overseen by Western Downs Regional Council’s Cultural Development Coordinator Ashleigh Campbell and Cultural Development Officer Anne Keam. The success of the project was also made possible by the enthusiastic support of the WDRC team at Dogwood Crossing.


What follows are more photocollages and individual images from the project

More images are on the Surat Basin.com.au website HERE

Murlilla Street  – Nocturne Miles

Murlilla Street – Nocturne Miles

The front gate – Nocturne Miles

The front gate – Nocturne Miles

Selfies – Nocturne Miles

Selfies – Nocturne Miles

Footwear – Nocturne Miles

Footwear – Nocturne Miles



Text and photos unless otherwise accredited are Copyright ©2014 Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart




DOING IT BY THE BOOK: Judging the 2015 Momento Pro Australian Photo Book Awards

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The finalists stack



On the 30th of January six identities from the Australian publishing and photography scene gathered in Sydney to review a selection of the best photo books from Australian authors and to select a recipient for the title Momento Pro Australian Photo Book of the Year. Prior to this event 100 books had been submitted in the award by Australian photographers working in a wide range of book forms that employ photography.


The judges for the award were: Shaune Lakin (Curator of Photography @ National Gallery Of Australia), Diana Hill [Publisher @ Murdoch Books), Sonya Jeffery (Books at Manic), Kim Hungerford (Art and Design Consultant and Buyer @ Kinokuniya), Michael Howard (Joint Art Director @ Sydney Morning Herald) and Doug Spowart (Research Fellow – Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland).



The judges deliberating    PHOTO: Doug Spowart


The process started 10 days earlier when the judges were sent a USB drive containing the 100 PDF files. Within a few days the judges were to review the files and select their top 12 books. These results where then collated by the Momento Pro team to give 15 finalists. They were:

  • Gold Coast                                          Ying Ang
  • Nonna to Nana                                  Jessie + Jacqueline DiBlasi
  • Typhoon                                             Stephen Dupont
  • Better Half                                         Jackson Eaton
  • Lover of Home                                   Odette England
  • The Beginning                                    Brendan Esposito
  • The Kings of KKH                              Andrea Francolini
  • Bedrooms of the Fallen                     Ashley Gilbertson
  • Tribal PNG                                         David Kirkland
  • In the Folds of Hills                           Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
  • Don’t Just Tell Them, Show Them    Jesse Marlow
  • SALT                                                  Emma Phillips
  • Nauru: What was taken and what was given   Kelvin Skewes
  • We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer Raphaela Rosella.
  • Fibro Dreams                                    Glenn Sloggett

Of these finalists, one book was published by an academic institution, three were published through an independent publisher and two were unpublished – the remaining books were self-published. The diversity of subject matter covered by the books included a portraiture and documentary cookbook, ethnographic documentary, social documentary, conceptual projects about human relationships of place and memory, books about irony and humour or glimpsed juxtapositions of subjects seen and photographed in the street. The books mainly fitted the conventional codex model and were trade printed and bound. One ‘photo book’ was a newspaper styled publication, and another was a deluxe artists’ book laparello of an exceptionally large size.



More debating … PHOTOS: Doug Spowart


As the judges came together at the Momento Pro facility in Chippendale they introduced themselves and participated in briefings conducted by Chairman of Jurors Heidi Romano, Director of Photo Book Melbourne and Libby Jeffery from the award sponsor Momento Pro. Then each judge engaged with the books – turning pages, cracking spines, smelling paper and inks, looking, reading, touching and connecting with the narrative and the experience that each book may contain. As all books were originally seen as digital images on screen there were some surprises as the digital version presented quite different experience to the physical printed book.

At this time individual conversations took place, ideas and responses to books shared. Opinions about photo books expressed and probed. Some of the key discussion points related to questions like ‘What is a photo book?’, and the validity of certain book topics and forms like cookbooks, newspapers, grand artists’ book productions – were they able to be considered as photo books? This part of the process was useful as it enabled a range of ideas to emerge from the broad views and experience of the judging panel.

The six judges then gathered around a large table – each book was presented for discussion at the end of which a vote was made as to whether it would be held-over in a ‘for further consideration’ stack or not. The discussions enabled each judge to express their experience of the book, opinions about narrative, sequencing, design and typography, production values as well as how the books ‘fitted’ with the idea of the photo book. One interesting consideration was the suitability of the book’s format, design and structure as a container to hold and present the narrative.

Some of the other discussion points that emerged included:

  • A trend which is emerging where the cover of the book has no photograph on it or minimal text to identify it;
  • The absence of the author’s name on the cover of the book;
  • The length of the book – many books the judges felt were just too long;
  • The editing and sequencing of images – many judges felt that they’d like to have done a review of the book to give an opportunity for the great photos and story to be more effectively told;
  • Texts within books need quality editing as well;
  • Aspects of book size and binding – a concern was ‘whether the physical nature of the book gets in the way of its storytelling potential’;
  • Design features that do not support the narrative; and
  • Ethics in documentary photography in relation to what level of personal information about the subject is OK to disclose in a book.

As a result of this judging segment the 15 finalists were reduced to six books. These books were interrogated further with particular attention being paid to the expectation that a great photo book should create, as it is activated by the viewer/reader, a moment where the book’s design, photographs, texts, layout, sequencing all combine to express a powerful statement, narrative or emotional response.

Of these six books selected Heidi Romano was to comment that ‘they were equal to any of the world’s current great photo books’. One final review and discussion needed to follow to select the ultimate title winner. This was preceded with discussion regarding the message that awards like these make to the photo book community about what constitutes exemplary work. The participating judges recognized the importance of this aspect of the final award selection. Ultimately all of the books were given highly commended awards with Kelvin Skewes’ Nauru: What was taken and what was given being awarded the title of Runner Up. First prize was awarded to Raphaela Rosella’s We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer book. Although unpublished the book had been printed and bound by the Momento Pro team to the author’s specifications. It featured personal narratives written by young mothers, the design and page-turning/text sequencing, powerful imagery and the inclusion of personal notes and letters extended the story and loaded the emotional response potential for the viewer.


Rossellas book

We Met a Little Early But I Get to Love You Longer Raphaela Rosella

Images and words from this book are available HERE


Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 12.32.04 pm

Nauru: What was taken and what was given Kelvin Skewes

The details of this book are available HERE


The award winners receive:

Winner – $1,500 cash + $8,000 Momento Pro credit

Runner Up – $1,500 Momento Pro credit

People’s Choice – $500 Momento Pro credit

An additional award will be the ‘peoples choice’ from votes received during the exhibition of the books at the Asia Pacific Photobook Archive at the Photo Book Melbourne event.

This award helps to define what great Australian photobooks can be is and has rewarded great Australian photobooks. Additionally it will continue to fuel commentary and debate around the nature of the practice in Australia and serve to extend interest in and recognition of the discipline and the practitioners of the discipline in Australia.


Doug Spowart

February 12, 2015



WORKING WITH “ACT WATERWAYS” A community art project

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ACT waterways LOGO FINAL

ACT Logo


In the last two weeks of September 2014 we worked with the Arts Council Toowoomba in the documentation and social media aspects of their contribution to the 2014 Carnival of Flowers. Entitled ‘ACT Waterways’ the project sought to connect artists and the waterways of Toowoomba to provide a commentary on, and to highlight, the watercourses that are so much a part of the locale’s geography.


The artists involved in the project had responded to the theme in diverse and inventive ways producing artworks that engaged the public and caused them to consider places and creeks that previously they may have just walked or driven past.

Our task was to manage and coordinate the documentation of the 11 art projects and the Facebook social media. In our activities we closely linked with the project leader, and then President of the Arts Council Toowoomba, Jennifer Wright (Summers), and the design coordinator Mary-Kate Khoo – both energetic, creative artists themselves and hard workers for the artists within our region.



Doug in a pre-planning meeting with Jennifer and Mary-Kate


To extend the opportunities for an extended learning experience for media photography students from the TAFE South-West Photoimaging department. We provided them with mentor support and professional practice skills to satisfy the demands of the project through a Facebook closed group as well as face-to-face location work.

The Facebook presence enabled a community connection with the project, activities that were taking place as well as a forum for comments and feedback. While the Facebook page was most active during the event it is still viewable as a record of the event and the creativity of the artists of our region and how the Arts Council Toowoomba provides leadership in arts projects. <https://www.facebook.com/toowoombawaterways>



A FLOW OF ART … Artists and water in our community


Map August



Artists in our community create art about the place and times in which they live. As a response to the long years of drought, the Arts Council Toowoomba involved local artists in the art project, Avant Garden, during 2007-2009 Carnival of Flowers.

After the floods in 2011 another Arts Council Toowoomba project enabled artists to tell the community’s story. The project was called Splashing back mosaic trail. At the opening Assistant Commissioner Fire and Emergency services Tom Dawson stressed the importance of greater awareness of where and how water flows through Toowoomba.

Now our Arts Council Toowoomba volunteer team and our creative artists have been working hard again and their latest venture, ACT Waterways addresses this aspect of Toowoomba’s water systems. Soon ten artists will be installing works across Toowoomba that tell new stories about our local waterways, with works ready for viewing by 19 September 2014. For those wanting to connect with this exciting and creative project there is a map of the ACT Waterways project and a program of events featuring musical performances at each of the sites.

ACT President Jennifer Wright (Summers) said: ‘We really hope members of the public and visitors enjoy the installations and free events. Working on this project has made us more aware of the wonderful waterways in our city. I was surprised to find yabbies, turtles and waterbirds in the CBD where I am installing bird sculptures.’ Residents and visitors are invited to visit the sites, come to daily performances, and learn about life in our waterways and the history of the Waterbird Habitat.

We invite everyone to share their stories and photos of Toowoomba’s East and West Creeks and to visit the ACT Waterways Facebook page



Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 12.38.15 pm


So, over a two-week period we worked with the artists and students documenting the project and uploading images to the Facebook page and managing the social media aspects of the project. The TAFE students did a fantastic job in taking photographs of the artists and their artworks, and also in complying with the professional demands and workflows that we required for the project.


Image from the ACT Waterways projectVicky-photos John+Ros_MG_5717 Sam-Photographs_MG_5462-72 Doug@computer_1353-72 John+Ros_Close-MG_5734-72 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA





Site 2-Linsey-8120-FB SITE_10-Install-Brian-Ellie-4419-FB OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA TAGLINE-Coates+Linsey-1000 Christine Brassington, 'Pelican' Image from the ACT Waterways project site_10-install-Brian_Phillips-KIM-7625-FB Andrew MacDonald's 'Aqua Rota 1, 2&3 an Image from the ACT Water Jennifer Wright (Summers) - "Connect with our swamp" Image from the ACT Waterways project Papi-prep-1000 Papi-blurr-1000 MONSTER-at-Night_6858-1000 Image from the ACT Waterways project Image from the ACT Waterways project Jesse_Vanes_5469-1000 ANDREW-Mega_6514-72 ___Jabiru-tight_6407-1000



Written by Victoria Cooper Doug Spowart

January 9, 2015 at 11:41 am

WOTWEDID BLOG: 2014 in review – interesting facts + stats

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The WordPress.com stats people prepared a 2014 annual report for our WOTWEDID blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

HABITAT OUT WEST: Environmental Art of the Darling Downs Exhibition

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Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 4.22.16 pm

Curated by Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam.


When, how, and why did the locality Darling Downs come to be known as the Surat Basin? This question informed the exhibition curators Ashleigh Campbell and Anne Keam and with it came the recognition that such a shift was deeply important to the region’s connections and perceptions of their place.


Habitat is a word that accommodates the presence of life beyond the human shaped and perceived landscape. In any given habitat the living and the nonliving interact to the rhythms of the earth and the cosmos. As both observers and inhabitants, artists and scientists help shape human perceptions of and relations with the broader global environment. This includes the economy of the earth’s resources that supports humanity.

Campbell and Keam researched a broad range of influences including the natural and human habitat of the Darling Downs from colonial history to present. Through the eyes and minds of the region’s colonial and post-colonial artists, along with some scientific documentation and social artifacts, they sought to reflect on shift and its implications on the regions environment.



John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery entry – Dogwood Crossing, Miles.

Gallery view_0727

John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery interior


This exhibition brought together a diverse collection of works including: prehistoric fossils and other historical artifacts, references and narratives of the pastoralists struggle with the invasion of prickly pear cactus and other pests, floods and droughts. The artists represented in the show came from many disciplines. Paintings representing this landscape covered a range of movements and styles from romantic colonial pastoral period to impressionism, abstraction and modernism. Well known artists names: Kenneth Macqueen, Sam Fullbrook and Joe Furlonger are representative of the depth of creative work in this exhibition.



Joseph Furlonger Round Up Ready Field, near Dalby 2012 Acrylic bound pigment 91 x 122 cm Courtesy of The Hughes Gallery, Sydney


Some artists reflected on living with the natural environment as found in small corners of Patricia Hinz’s back yard in the work, Sanctuary (2014). Palpable in the drawing of Allan Bruce’s Stanthorpe, Late Winter (2008) is the feeling of being in the grand sun-soaked landscape of the Downs, and the relationship of small towns with the surrounding country. Bruce observes: “Stanthorpe is one of those towns where the natural and built environment coalesces almost seamlessly.”[1] The inventiveness and creativity that pervades every farmer’s shed and bushman’s camp is embodied in the sculptural work of Dion Cross’ Grass Harvester (2014), that highlights the competition for pasture between man and animal during periods of drought. The fine drawings of flowers and fungi by botanical artists and illustrators through scientific documentation reveal a deep understanding and investigation of the natural life forms found in this region.


Dion Cross Grass Harvester 2014 Steel sculpture 150 x 60 x 180 cm Courtesy of the artist Image: Spowart + Cooper

Dion Cross Grass Harvester 2014 Steel sculpture 150 x 60 x 180 cm Courtesy of the artist Image: Spowart + Cooper


Phil Bazzo’s painting, Miles: At the Crossroads (Triptych, 2008) presented two concepts: the physical nature of the intersections of roads in Miles including the dynamics of heavy road vehicles and the metaphor of crossroads to infer change and concerns for the future. Both found natural and manmade objects and materials were also utilized as the visual language of protest. This was evident in the mixed media works of Jennifer Wright (Summers): Searching for Life in the Anthropocene 1 (2014), using tea bags, feathers, fabric pen & ink, watercolour and Anthropocene Nest (2014), that was made from plastic bags and pelican bone. Nicki Laws’ Habitat Gone (2014) collaged and embroidered the materials found in the fluoro safety barriers widely used in the industries found in the region.



Gillian Scott Grevillea x ‘Robyn Gordon’ 1993 Watercolour on paper 25 x 35 cm Courtesy of the artist


The solastalgic plea for a balance with man and the land was also deeply felt when viewing the work of Barbara Hancock’s Brigalow Landscape (2014). Working with the land, technology and energy needs was also strongly referenced in the work of Sylvia Secomb (Mann), Synergism – Towards Regeneration I (2010), but also reflects on the question “What will we be leaving for those who come after?”[2]


Sylvia Secomb (Mann) Synergism - Towards Regeneration I 2010 Acrylic and medium on canvas 91 x 213 cm Courtesy of the artist

Sylvia Secomb (Mann) Synergism – Towards Regeneration I 2010 Acrylic and medium on canvas 91 x 213 cm Courtesy of the artist


For the city viewer who ventures out into the region to connect with this show, there is a unique experience: to be in the space and place of the exhibition, Dogwood Crossing, Miles, within the Habitat it references. This site-specific exhibition presents rare opportunity to engage with the historical and contemporary issues of living with the land through the creative energy and perception of those who chose to live and work in this region. The curators have also published an extensive and informative online catalogue to accompany the exhibition: Habitat_Catalogue or online at http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1

Beyond the facts and information, the presence of a growing connection and love of the Australian environment pervaded strongly throughout this extraordinary show. Through visual story telling and lived experience, the artists and the curators have constructed a layered topology of the Darling Downs. A telling image of how the effects of a changing human condition: technology, energy and food production can be identified and chronicled through the artist’s vision.


Victoria Cooper


I am also privileged to have my work, 7 Gates (two forms: artists’ book, 2009; digital media presentation 2014), included in Habitat.


[1] Page 11, ibid.
[2] Page 21, Habitat: Environmental Art of the Darling Downs, 2014. The online catalogue for the show of the same name. See http://issuu.com/ourwesterndowns/docs/catalogue/1



Anne Keam and Ashleigh Campbell at the opening.








DRAWING @ 2014 Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award

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Vicky disappearing into Wooli Escarpment 2014 by Andrew Tompkins

Vicky disappearing into Wooli Escarpment 2014 by Andrew Tompkins


Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award


Grafton Regional Gallery 18 October – 7 December 2014


The judge was art critic and historian John McDonald.


Paul Klee is credited with stating that ‘drawing was taking a line for a walk’, and on viewing the current Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award at the Grafton Regional Gallery one would come to the conclusion that the line meanders down a very wide path. What is on offer to viewers of the exhibition is an opportunity to engage with the many ways of telling a story through the medium of drawing. The media of drawing, as presented in the show, can be lead pencil, charcoal, brush strokes, hot wires, swipes of pigments, resin glossed over marker pen, fine paper cuts, inkjet applied lines and lines engraved in Perspex and yet there’s much more that that.



Part of the gallery installation of the JADA show


A drawing can emulate the camera’s slice of focus, and ability to capture a shape, a form or an association of elements. It can also be part of a process to unlock alternative or new ways of seeing or considering a subject. It may be the result of an artist’s doodle emanating from an unconscious experience. Some see drawing as a lesser art as it is usually a preliminary to the art making. In this space however, drawing in all its varied forms represents the strength of the discipline and easily dispels any challenges to it being an autonomous finished artwork.


Fit for Duty’ 2014* by Christine Wilcox

Christine Wilcocks’ Fit for Duty 2014


Some viewers may have an expectation that drawing relies on evidence of draughtsmanship will expect to see works exhibiting that skill. But just drawing to exactly mimic reality is not the way of the artist. In work entitled ‘Fit for Duty’ 2014* by Christine Wilcocks takes the direct transcript of a subject to another level in a portrait of a World War I soldier. The work comments on the man’s physical examination prior to being admitted to the army. The portrait’s eyes are covered by blankness and textual elements and an aggressive inkblot form provides the viewer with a reflection on the artist’s idea of the work.


Petrina Seale  “Home Studies in Nature II’ 2014

Petrina Seale’s Home Studies in Nature II 2014 (Detail)


A work about documentation is a study of a beetle by Petrina Seale entitled ‘Home Studies in Nature II’ 2014 uses coloured pencils on a white paper ground – the truncated composition to draws attention to the of the subject.


Matt Foley's Hotel Lake Eacham 2014

Matt Foley’s Hotel Lake Eacham 2014


In another work by Matt Foley entitled ‘Hotel Lake Eacham’ 2014 the artist has created a study in light of a dreamlike space, a vignette of a place imbued with a darkness and depth of black pigment that is the stuff of half remembered recollections.


Bruno Leti's  ‘Ashes to Ashes’ 2013-2014

Bruno Leti Ashes to Ashes 2013-2014


Four large framed pieces by Bruno Leti entitled ‘Ashes to Ashes’ 2013-2014 is a textural surface of the paper, abstracted, patterned, colourless with blurred edged shapes like fragments of memories. The work comments on the artist’s personal experience of the destruction of places of personal significance by fire. The work itself is partly pigmented by the charcoal retrieved from the fire.


Wendy Sharpe's ‘Backstage Burlesque with Venetian Mask’ 2013

Wendy Sharpe’s Backstage Burlesque with Venetian Mask  2013


Klee’s line was taken for a dance into a seedy bohemian den by Wendy Sharpe in her work ‘Backstage Burlesque with Venetian Mask’ 2013*. A female figure being dressed presents an impish grin towards the viewer – provocatively displaying the comfort of her nakedness. Brightly coloured pastel gestures define other figures surround this main subject all preparing for the stage performance. Close viewing reveals squiggly lines that allude to other stories within the work.


Anthony Bennet’s ‘e pluribus anus – a portrait of Tony Abbott’ 2014

Anthony Bennett’s   e pluribus anus – a portrait of tony abbott  2014


Anthony Bennett’s ‘e pluribus anus – a portrait of tony abbott’ 2014 makes a political statement about his subject. A skull with Micky Mouse ears is repeated twice on a white ground made glisteningly hard by its shiny resin coating. One of the skulls is in the process of de-colouring and the pigments dribble down the large-scale work. Bennett’s drawing has all the freneticism of a hastily sketched graffiti work interrupted by a police car coming around the corner.


Todd Fuller’s work ‘A Dance for Paul Klee’ 2014*

Todd Fuller’s  A Dance for Paul Klee 2014


.Todd Fuller’s work ‘A Dance for Paul Klee’ 2014* celebrates Klee’s metaphor for drawing. The digitally presented artwork is of a choreographed dance performance that has its origin in a movie. The film has been overlaid by gestural line work positioned based on the movement of the dancer. Flourishes of colour, most noticeably red, follow and trace the subject’s animation across the screen.


Keys Bridge in Flood’ 2014* by Emma Walker

Emma Walker’s Keys Bridge in Flood 2014


The overall winner of the $20,000 prize was ‘Keys Bridge in Flood’ 2014* by Emma Walker. The work is 150 x 150cm and represents the movement of water through a flooded landscape. Gazing longer at the work the viewer is captured by the vitality, rush and flow of the graphite, charcoal, pencil and pastel marks on the paper. These marks become the substance of the artist’s inspiration – they are the water, they are the flood, they are the emotions that come from the artist to us. All of these things are in that drawing….


Doug Spowart 

15 November 2014



* Denotes work was acquired


Other works acquired include:

  • Michael Cusack ‘Vista’ 2014
  • Lee Hyun-Hee ‘108 defilements’ 2013.



The 2014 JADA will travel to seven venues over the next two years including; Manning Regional Gallery, Cowra Regional Art Gallery, the University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery, Glasshouse Port Macquarie, Redcliffe City Gallery, the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and the Tamworth Regional Art Gallery.






A catalogue for the show contains an introduction by GRG Director Jude McBean, artists’ statements and images of the works.

For details contact:


  1. gallery@clarence.nsw.gov.au
  2. www.graftongallery.nsw.gov.au




Please note: Photographs of artworks are the copyright of the artist. All images were made by the author in the gallery space and may have elements of reflection and lighting variations that are not part of the original artwork.




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