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NICHOLAS WALTON-HEALEY – SALT FRAMES

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A SELECTION OF IMAGES

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'Spoor' Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

‘SPOOR’ Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

'WHISPER' by Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

‘WHISPER’ by Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

'SKIN' Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

‘SKIN’ Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

'Tounge' Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

‘TOUNGE’ Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

'CARESS' Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

‘CARESS’ Nicholas Walton-Healey from the exhibition SALT FRAMES

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A COMMENTARY ON THE BODY OF WORK by Victoria Cooper

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watch the water long enough and you’ll see a fish jump … *

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Salt Frames review

Nicholas is a poet…

Salt Frames is simultaneously a visual and textual poem. On the surface it is an exhibition of light and colour abstractions from time spent on the Nightcliff Foreshore, Darwin. But this work also has deeper layers and meaning that are evoked through the supporting words and symbols within the images, as Walton-Healey discloses: “Sea salt aids the healing of wounds (including those beneath the surface of the skin).”

Walton-Healey points out that more broadly Australians have an affinity to the coast. The sea and the coast become places of personal meditation and for some physical and psychological healing. His seascapes are not the usual pictorial or grand panorama – instead he shares visual metaphors; those moments of revelation and contemplation that can hold many different meanings to the viewer.

The text blocks with the images are, for me, not titles but words that operate as codes to other ways of being and thinking. If we cast our minds to memories of reverie by the sea, perhaps these words articulate our collective human experience of being at the coast.

On connecting with Walton-Healey’s opening speech, the meaning embedded in the words and the images of layered light, colour and stilled moments was underpinned by a deeply moving human story. Through the visual poetry of this exhibition the artist has humbly shared vulnerability, tenderness and deep thinking. In this openness of vision he also created space for the viewer to spend time to consider and connect with our own stories and memories.

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Dr Victoria Cooper

* A teaching by Larrakia Warrior Robert E. Lewis to Nicholas Walton-Healey

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THE OPENING SPEECH BY PAMELA KLEEMANN-PASSI

Pamela Kleeman-Passi speaks

Pamela Kleeman-Passi speaks

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Acknowledgement to Country

We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land, the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri) peoples of the Kulin Nation. We extend gratitude to all Elders past and present and their enduring connection to land, sea and community.

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Welcome to the Salt Frames exhibition …

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My friendship with Nick grew out of a deeply personal connection of loss and renewal, and a mutual passion for experiencing life through the lens of creativity. And now we have Darwin in common! Our shared stories meandered and overlapped during my month there mid-last year for my own exhibition. I actually didn’t know that much about Darwin until that visit, and I returned to Melbourne with a deep fondness for the culture, the landscape and the communities. I thank Nick for facilitating a visit to the Tiwi Islands to spend a moment of precious, rejuvenating time at the Tarntipi Bush Camp on Bathurst Island.

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So what you see within these salt frames of the Nightcliff foreshore is Nick’s immersion in and introspection on the blessings and cruelties of life, and the healing power of the water and the land. The evocative single word titles express an array of feelings and experiences and the images are imbued with opposites:

Landscape / seascape      Water / land     Surface / depth

Smoothness / crusty, gritty textures     Clarity / blurriness     Light / dark

Shadows / highlights    Colour / monochrome    Reflection / absorption

Representation / abstraction    Emotion / rationale

He’s combined the poetic and the photographic, with an Impressionist painterly quality to many of the works. Nightcliff is a very special place for Nick… but it also has a fascinating history and I quote from Tess Lea’s personal/historical book, Darwin: “Even the dumping grounds of Nightcliff, where unwanted machinery and detritus from WWII were tipped over a cliff, have merged into the rocks below, no longer distinguishable, just deformed lumps of rust and chalk.” The colour of rusted metal is very evident within some of the images – how over time, it’s merged with the landscape shaped by the power of the sea.

In this time of climate fragility and significant settler land and sea degradation, I feel compelled to refer to ecological grief and the healing power of the land and the water because the land and sea are absolutely fundamental to a community’s overall mental health. Nick’s images are testament to that healing power.

For Nick…

On the edge, at the edge… of love and loss and longing,

And remembering and wanting to forget

And letting go but holding on…

Wedged between land and water, pushing and pulling

Lapping across a surface that belies a depth so utterly profound and unfathomable

A photographic imprint, focused and blurred

Where light inscribes water, water inscribes land

And language and form mutate and merge, rippling and surging in a constant soundtrack

That violently crashes and gently caresses in waves and heartbeats

Eroding, erasing, healing and repairing

The run-off leaving traces that ebb and flow

As life and love and loss and longing ebb and flow…

And it’s sink or swim or scramble to a fragile stability on solid ground and remain upright

or undone

Or both…

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Pamela Kleemann-Passi © 2023

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ROBERT LEWIS TALKS ABOUT HIS CONNECTION WITH NICK

Robert Lewis, Larrakia Warrior', speaks at Ncholas Walton-Healey's exhibition SALT FRAMES at the Library at the Docks in Melbourne/Naarm on 15 March 2023

Robert Lewis, Larrakia Warrior, speaks at the opening of SALT FRAMES

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Nic from Vic

Hi my name is Robbie Lewis, I’m a Larrakia Man. Born and bred on Larrakia land in Darwin.

2013, The Eye See Workshop, working with young Indigenous people living on a local community, in the Darwin region, where I met a young man trying to make understanding of life, this is when I first met a young spirited man, Nicholas Walton-Healey!!

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A student photographer trying to find he’s way around the community. At first, I saw another white man taking photos of Indigenous people. But now, 10 years later, I see a great man showing the rest of the world through he’s eyes the beautiful things he sees through a camera.

To talk about

Communications – to talk, to say, to hear, to listen, to answer, to reply, also to understand and help.

Management – to be a leader, a teacher, to educate, to be in charge, to manage and help.

Worker – to do a job, to earn a wage, to keep things moving forward, to do work and to help where there is no other.

Just don’t forget why they go together.

The Student

This one person brings all these people together.

Now I see this man as a teacher!!

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Robert Lewis © 2023

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NICK’S RESPONSE

Nic addresses the audience at his exhibition SALT FRAMES opening – Library at the Docks in Melbourne/Naarm on 15 March 2023

Nick addresses the audience at his exhibition

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Thank you everyone for making it out tonight. I don’t have the time to personally thank each one of you, here. But I’m really proud of, and humbled by, the diversity of the groups represented in this room. Friends. Family. Collaborators. Colleges. Mentors. And Muses. You’ve all contributed in some important way to the journey I’ve been on, with my photography.

Pam and Rob, I’m especially grateful for the friendship I share with each of you, and for your very kind and thoughtful words tonight.

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What you’re looking-at in the salt frames photographs, is The Timor Sea. And more people go missing each year in The Timor Sea, than they do in any other sea throughout the world.

I can certainly say that I’ve felt the pull. The allure of its rhythm, and hypnotic calamity.

It made perfect sense to me, when I read that statement in a book that Pam recently lent to me. Over the past twelve months, Pam has gifted me some important inspiration – we met at the ANAT Spectra Live event in Melbourne, and our paths crossed again in The Northern Territory last year. They converged at Tactile Arts in Darwin, during Sweet Dreams and Gut Reactions, the title of Pam’s exhibition, which got me thinking…

It’s probably an understatement, for those of you who know me, to say I’m inspired by the viscerality of art. I’ve always understood the role of the artist to entail a questioning of accepted definitions of the normal and possible. And that the moral and aesthetic responsibility of the photographer is to make the invisible, visible and the familiar, strange…

Photography is a highly intuitive process for me. I make the pictures first, and make-sense of them, second. So, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, walking up and down the Nightcliff foreshore at all hours of day and night, last year.

I was actually stopped one evening by an elderly couple, who said ‘ahh, you’re a photographer!?’ I looked-at them, bemused, because I had a camera in my hand, and responded with, ‘yeah!’ But then the lady then came closer, and touched me on the arm. She looked into my eyes and said, ‘Well, that’s good, because we’ve seen you out here every night this week and thought you were homeless.’

The remark startled me because, while I was always on the lookout for crocs, I actually felt pretty safe in Darwin last year, which was when I made the majority of these photographs. Even if I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of Rob’s kitchen.
I have a really special connection with Rob, who is like a big brother, to me; one of my mentors, teachers, guides and best mates, over the past ten years.

I first met Rob on an Indigenous community known and referred to in Darwin as Knuckey’s. This was back in 2013, when I first travelled-up to Darwin with one of my university lectures – Mark Galer – for The Eye See Workshop. Although our initial encounters were brief, I remember being struck by the enormity of Rob’s heart; the fact that he actually, genuinely cared for the people living on this, and the other communities we visited.

At the end of that workshop, I was invited back to Darwin by Rob’s boss-at-the-time. From this point, I entered into what became a five-year-plus partnership. This lead me back out onto those communities, and ultimately, to almost all of the so-called town camps in and around the Greater Darwin Region.

For all this time, I was like Rob’s little shadow. I followed him everywhere, and especially to the programs he ran with the men and family groups from these communities. Through these means, I built my own friendships and connections. But that’s another story, another project…

The Salt Frames are more overly focussed on my personal connection with Rob. Our friendship grew partly through the bond I developed with his late mother, Robyn, who I learnt to recognise and identify as an authentically Darwin person; Robyn’s mother (Rob’s maternal grandmother), was born at Lamaroo Beach, before being stolen as a child, and was eventually adopted by Juma Fejo.

The Fejos are one of the original eight family groups recognised as the Traditional Custodians of the Greater Darwin Region.
So Rob’s Larrakia, and the Larrakia are also known as The Salt Water People. The Salt Frames show Larrakia country, which includes Nightcliff, the place where Rob and I spent a lot our time when we weren’t working on the communities together.
Watch the water long enough and you’ll see a fish jump. That’s what Rob used to say to me. And I found it really frustrating at first, because I couldn’t see any fish. But over time, I realised that, rather than asking me to simply look-at the water, Rob was actually asking me to look into it. In this way, he transformed my ability to ‘see.’

But he wasn’t the only person I went to Nightcliff beach with. Before and after re-locating from Melbourne to Darwin, Nightcliff was the place that my late fiancé most liked to visit. She loved watching the sunsets. And unwinding and connecting on the beach. Over the years, we made a lot of love along this coastline. Beside the Timor Sea. And sure enough, it was not too far up from one of these spots that we returned on the afternoon she received her cancer diagnosis.

Shit happens. We deal with it. And then we move-on. That’s also one of Rob’s sayings; but it was the teaching I found most difficult to comprehend. Dealing with it, was what I really trying to do in the five and half months I spent in The Territory last year, walking around the beach like a homeless person.

Making these photographs was one way I felt I could make-good on my promise to do something with my photography, while at the same-time maintaining the connection that my finance and I shared with the families and communities we worked with. In August last year, Rob accompanied my mother and I over to the Tiwi Islands, for her Pukamani ceremony. The overwhelming majority of the photographs in this collection were made in the weeks that followed this event.

So whichever way you look at them, the Salt Frames show profound and enduring connection. But they also acknowledge the inescapably transient nature of being. You don’t get to beauty without pain, and love is very hard to name, without seeing the full-face of loss. The process of curating and assembling this show, and gathering you all in this room tonight, is part of an attempt to move forward.
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Thank you all …   Nicholas Walton-Healey

Nicholas Walton-Healey © 2023

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Nicholas with Pam Kleemann-Passi and Robert Lewis

Nicholas with Pam Kleemann-Passi and Robert Lewis

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© Photographs by Nicholas Walton-Healey      Photographs of the opening ©2023 Doug Spowart
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