Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

COOPER+SPOWART NOCTURNES: International Year of Light

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IYL - Logo

IYL – Logo


2015 is the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF LIGHT – Our Nocturne projects celebrate light and this year at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre we are showing a major exhibition entitled NOCTURNE MUSWELLBROOK: Revisited.



Nocturne Muswellbrook: Reflections on Light


As the sun goes down and the last light fades–cars pass by with commuters heading home for respite at the end of a days work or others just embarking on a nights work. Trucks move through the town with little thought for the places they pass through. People meet and have a conversation…. The street lights come on one by one up the street. The illuminated advertising signage lights the buildings along with the internal lights of the building.

This transition from daylight to night is rhythmical–a diurnal phenomenon–but one that is also pervaded with the uncanny or un-homely sense of place. At nocturne and into the night everyday places change, becoming mysterious as the shadows replace familiar surrounds. A sense of melancholy also grows with the passing of the day–a lament born from the relentlessness of change.

Yet these ephemeral moments can also be seductive and evocative, experiencing the aesthetics of the nocturne can inspire new imaginings of everyday places. The colour and chiaroscuro compositions of light and shadow replace the tired and indifferent prose of daily life. A magical narrative evolves from the personal memories of a shared living history in these laneways, streets, buildings and spaces.


A selection of Nocturne Muswellbrook: Revisited images

A selection of Nocturne Muswellbrook: Revisited images



SHADOW-Duo_0140 (1)

Cooper+Spowart Nocturne shadow

For many years we have engaged in nocturne projects. These have included artists in residency programs in the regional galleries of Muswellbrook, Grafton, Bundaberg and Miles as well as self-funded projects across east coast Australia. The Artist in Residence (AIR) projects are associated with a Facebook page to connect the community with the photographs and evoke stories about the places photographed.

A sample of community Facebook responses can be seen here:




Nocturne AIR Projects include workshops, mentoring in photography, image enhancement, social media as well as photobook and zine making. Future Nocturne Projects are in the planning stage and we seek expressions of interest from communities looking to participating in a Nocturne light project.



Participating community members from the Nocturne Miles Project


A link to a collective of NOCTURNE PROJECTS can be found: HERE



THE BACK STORY: Nocturne Muswellbrook



The Nocturne Muswellbrook Facebook page was launched in June 2013


From 23rd June we began a 2week Artist in Residence in Muswellbrook. Our studio was a vacant shop in the Campbell’s Corner building fronting onto the main street, Bridge Street



Our gallery and workspace

We set up our digital studio workspace to:

  • Master the nocturne photographs for the Facebook page
  • Print out the mastered images for a small display in the shop
  • Greet anyone that wanted to come by and share their story about Muswellbrook
  • Prepare for the evening’s shooting around the town


Photographing a coal train from the Bell Street bridge

Photographing a coal train from the Bell Street bridge

Each night and day, once the images were uploaded onto the Nocturne Muswellbrook page we invited everyone to tell their stories about each place photographed. We were excited to engage with the community and a deeper knowledge and experience of Muswellbrook through this process.


An early FB Cover

An early FB Cover


Many people that visited the page were once residents of Muswellbrook but now live in other parts of Australia and some were international expats. The number of ‘Page LIKES’ grew quickly – today the number stands @ 620. There was a pride and a melancholy for this once rural town. Some stories were full of humour and the irony of the Aussie yarn. While others shared poignant moments of their lives from the memories evoked by the photographs.


Video projection on MRAC wall

Video projection on MRAC wall

We also created a Youtube video that was uploaded and premiered at our artists talk held in the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre on the July 5. In evening we projected our images as a visual performance on the outside of the Gallery for public viewing and to extend the experience of the nocturne project.

Even though our 2 weeks in residence had come to an end on July 6, we still continued to connect with the Facebook page: uploading images and connecting them with the community’s stories.



Exhibition invite


Vicky arranging the hang copy

Vicky arranging the hang


The MRAC exhibition space


In 2015 we came back to show an exhibition of the work on the walls of the Gallery. The Sunday after the opening we presented a workshop for participants wanted to upskill or engage with how we captured and mastered these nocturnal images.


Workshop at the MRAC


Now the works are on the wall for all to come and see… and we are inviting anyone who visits to write down their story and place on the wall next to the image. The gallery is now a physical “Facebook page”. We look forward to seeing your written stories on the walls of the gallery.


2013: with Silvana & Roger-MRAC AIR Coordinator ….. 2015 with Elissa, Jade and MRAC Director Brad…………………..


Printing with ILFORD Galerie GOLD SILK papers

Printing with ILFORD Galerie GOLD SILK papers


We want to express our thanks to the MRAC Team, Roger Skinner, ILFORD papers and Maud Gallery.










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  1. […] conducted by Victoria Cooper and Doug Spowart, across Eastern Australia including past events in Muswellbrook, Grafton, Bundaberg and […]

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