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Much more than a murky mangrove world

Mallam, P. After the swim, 2012

Mallam, P. After the swim, 2012


Today I went to see at show by Terrain Photography. This is a group of three photographers with a passion for reinterpreting landscape.

Initially attracted by the image on the invitation which boasts a photograph by Paul Mallam, I was immediately intrigued by the incongruity of the life buoy in the swamp. It seemed to tell a story and beckoned me into the murky mangrove world which exists as part sea, part land. Mangroves are a ‘no-go’ zone in my mind; alien, silent, albeit for soft sucking noises and the buzz of insect life. It’s a place we don’t associate with human habitation and so this image spooked me.

Mallam presents several other equally beguiling photos set amongst the mangroves, one with a dangling rope evoking both playing children and lynch mobs simultaneously. Another with a beam of light breaking through the claustrophobia of the dank and tidal cocoon – the light so strong one suspects a spectacular happening, a resurrection or a modern day Assumption. These are silent, quiet images; you’re a bystander, an observer of the residual, of the remnant and of something that happened before you arrived. Mallams colours are silvery; a mix of reflection and glinting light, dark greens and deep shadows.

Coober Pedy is the subject of the images by Peter McMahon and my favourite here is the fresh dug graves. This piece is black and white, and McMahon deftly presents viewer with two piles of gravel over the recently deceased in the foreground and piles of gravel from dug-out mine pits in the background. It’s humourous, ironic and somehow sad. McMahon’s other pieces describe the desert in full panoramic colour – watery blues and late afternoon orange, softened by pink and no longer shouting at you.

In another corner of the space hangs a series of highly colourised photographs by Peter Lang. These are of White Bay Power Station and they are all out of focus, blurred. I had a strong initial reaction to these – best described as an aching for clarity, a longing for that snap sharp definition of a crispy focused photograph. Frankly, I was irritated. Then I began to warm to them, to their modern-day Impressionism, to their dynamic colour and their shape. It dawned on me that there was something of the Howard Arkley about them – if Arkley had stepped out of the domestic and the suburban he might had made pictures like these. It’s as if you’re staring at the power station in full sun, eyes brimming from the glare. In fact when I walked away, these were the images that burned into the back of my eyes and I’ve thought about them several times since.

Held in a old pub at 88 George Street, Redfern this show won’t waste your time. Go and have a peek!

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