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City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

News from the Sun

16 November 2019–15 March 2020

ARTISTS Harry Culy, Justine Varga, Shaun Waugh CURATOR Aaron Lister PUBLICATION essay Aaron Lister

The window, the horizon, and the still life are some of photography’s biggest clichés. Darkroom and Instagram famous, beloved by professionals and amateurs alike, they demand to be photographed. They have become ciphers for photography itself. Their use often tells us what a photograph is or might be, confirms or tests its relationship to the world, to other art forms, and to the history of the medium.

News from the Sun features three photographers, each exploring these possibilities through one of these motifs. In each case, the motif is abstracted, serialised, and transformed through formal processes and manipulations that push it beyond the cliché.

Harry Culy’s The Gap is an ongoing series of seascapes started in 2014. It presents views of the horizon from Sydney’s South End Beach at various times of day under different weather conditions—fixing the unfixable ‘moods of the sea’. This classic formal exercise took on other dimensions when Culy discovered the dark history of this site as a notorious suicide spot. His seascapes speak to stillness and movement, beauty and horror, life and death—and photography’s capacity to cross these divides.

Justine Varga’s series Areola combines cameraless and lens-based photography. She tests the boundary between image and object, and where a photograph might begin or end. Key to her investigation is the repeated image of a latticed window—taken from the same negative but shown in multiple stages and states. She harks back to some of the first photographs ever made, Henry Fox Talbot’s 1835 views of a latticed window.

Shaun Waugh’s photographic friezes rethink the still life through a combination of new digital imaging technologies and old cubist ways of seeing. Working from a traditional still-life set up of single-use plastic bottles arranged on a table, he uses focus stacking to combine views and perspectives. The bottles' undulating, transparent, injection-moulded surfaces reflect and refract light. An environmental hazard, symbolic of our disposable society, here plastic bottles make for seductive abstractions. His photographs of containers explore photography as container.