THOMAS OLIVER’s ‘Disconnection’ exhibition & essay
Disconnection is a solo show by Brisbane photographer Thomas Oliver. The series consists of work that has been captured in London, New York, Toronto, Paris and (of course) Brisbane. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue essay written by Dr. Doug Spowart.
Artist’s Talk: Interview with Dr. Heather Faulkner, 11am-1pm Saturday 25th February
Full Exhibition Dates: Tuesday 13th – Saturday 25th February
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Address: Project Gallery – QCA South Bank Campus, 226 Grey Street
OLIVER’s Artist Statement
Experiencing the ebb and flow of life in a capital city, it is easy to become consumed by the gurgling hum of activity. It sparks and pulses like an amped-up generator. We slip from one task to the next, leaving ourselves behind in the process. The lights flicker and the air vibrates warmly around us. And like a mad hive, our cities swarm with ghostly forms, smoothly transparent and faceless.
My Words for Thomas …
What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time.
John Berger died last week. But his work will continue to reveal insights on how we perceive photographic communications. Even now I continue to hear his words in my head as I write. Most of the time his voice inhabits my writing, saying the words that I have just typed. His writing and critical thinking offered new ‘ways of seeing and looking at photographs’ – as ‘quotes’ from appearances, photos and memory. The photograph presents to us information that has connections to a reality as in Berger’s assertion, ‘A photograph arrests the flow of time in which the event photographed once existed’.
But what happens when the photographic moment is slurred by slow shutter-speeds, movement of subject and camera panning? In this approach Thomas Oliver creates visual documents that could never have been seen by the photographer or an observer of the scene. These are documents of not a moment but of time passing. They transcend the instantaneous moment and suggest a visual concept of the subject’s spirit seemingly extracted by the act of photography–a tear in temporality ‘arrested’.
Oliver’s images also have a resonance with Gilles Deleuze’s discussion on Francis Bacon’s work in his 1981 book Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Deleuze highlights how ‘chance’ and the expressiveness of the random and indiscriminate effects of vigorous brush strokes inform Bacon’s painting. Deleuze proposes that: ‘there is no chance except “manipulated” chance, no accident except a “utilized” accident.’ In making his photographs Oliver has no way of knowing what each slow shutter release will reveal. He relies on his understanding of technique during the process of exposure to realize the potential for an evocative outcome.
For me Oliver’s photographs are based on the ‘manipulated chance’. He is ready to respond with the tools photography to capture the phenomenon of light and time in everyday places frequented by people. His work seems to also rely on his acceptance of ‘utilized accidents’. It is from this principle that his moments of strange and powerful visual poetry come into being.
But are they his photographs? My favourite Berger quote also relates to Oliver’s spontaneous street images. That there are things beyond us, I’m not talking about God or Gods, but rather more about the involvement of the ‘other’ in the making of art. Berger said it beautifully for me – his voice echoes in my mind:
The modern illusion concerning painting [I read photography here]. . . is that the artist is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What seems like creation is the act of giving form to what he has received.
I respectfully present to you – Thomas Oliver’s Disconnection photographs of simulacra from the street.
Doug Spowart PhD
 Berger, John. “Appearances/the Ambiguity of the Photograph.” In Another Way of Telling: A Possible Theory of Photography, 47-52. Malden, MA, USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2002.
 I refer also to Francis Bacon’s paintings based on Diego Velázquez’s Pope, Portrait of Innocent X (1650) and his portraits of friends, for example Three studies for a portrait of Lucien Freund (1964).
 Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Continuum. Continuum Edition ed. London: Continuum Books, 1981. Editions de la Difference.
 Berger, John. The Shape of a Pocket. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001.