“…I am essentially a visual person, and the story of my work is in the constructs of the photographic image…”
I am an Australian photographic artist, specialising in architecture, industrial, urban and fine art photography. Danish born, I emigrated with the family at the age of seven to Adelaide, from where I have been based since. I devote my time to artistic expression through my photography, and to establishing myself as an architectural photographer.
Originally trained as an art teacher at the South Australian School of Art and Western Teachers College, I have since expanded my qualifications in Visual Communication (Graphic Design) and Photo Imaging Certificate IV into a Graduate Diploma in Visual Art and Design (Photography).
My current body of work reflects upon my exploration of the abstract form, sourced from representational beginnings, and re-interpreted through distortion, formalism, process and materiality of digital photography.
Through my work, I am seeking a spiritual connection with the Japanese concepts of Wabi-Sabi: incompletion, imperfection and transience.
Traditionally, these three concepts focus primarily on nature, and its imperfect, unpredictable, organic form that is asymmetrical and independent of man’s control. By contrast, my work is trying to find some of these Wabi-Sabi meanings in the materialistic, urban modernism, which reflects man’s desire to control, construct and regulate, using rules and logic to strive for symmetry, regularity and perfection.
My fine art photographic work is independent of people. Rather, it is sourced from the structural, architectural forms and markings that are found in urban settings – particularly ports of departure such as sea, air and rail. I refer to these locations as non-places (Marc Augé, 1995), and for me, they are typified by city streets, intersections, airports, harbours, railway stations, and other points of arrival, departure and passing traffic.
In addition, the work that is inspired by the natural world, is often reduced to the textures, patterns, structure and form within nature and the landscape, as opposed to the scenic.
My greatest influences include: my Danish heritage, artists such as Jeffrey Smart, Sean Scully, Charles Sheeler, and photographers such as Harry Callahan, Katherine Westerhout and the port-war photographic modernists of the 1920s (Maholy-Nagy, Man Ray and Rodchenko etc)
My focus on abstraction originates in the captured image, which is disrupted by the rearrangement of the familiar into new perspectives. Through the photographs, I am objectively detaching from the physical location, while creatively looking for a means of flattening, reducing, deconstructing and simplifying the image, in order to shift the dynamics of the original referent, within the rectangular proportions of the frame.
I describe my work as non-reactionary, considered, unsentimental, constructed with careful control and intended to elicit curiosity.
Q. How has living in South Australia influenced your art?
A. I believe SA has influenced my art work through the accessibility of a range of environments that I have had the opportunity to explore over the decades since the 1960s. This includes the huge influence of the SA School of art in Stanley Street, North Adelaide, in the late 60s and early 70s where an amazing group of talent taught and learnt (Geoff Wilson, Ann Newmarch, Dave Dallwitz, Franz Kempf, Geoffrey Brown etc)From volunteering at the Art Gallery of SA, I see many more creative artists from SA that are making an impact on Australian Contemporary art, and a growing influence within photography. This has an ongoing inspiration on my personal projectwork. And Adelaide itself is constantly under change, and I love following that change and photographing it.
Q. Have you lived in South Australia for your whole life
A. I emigrated with my family in 1957 just before I turned seven. Apart from a couple of years in New Guinea (as a teenager) and Sydney (when I first began teaching) I have honoured my routes here in Adelaide since 1975. I do a lot of travelling, and I love Adelaide for its size, location, weather and variety. Although much maligned by the eastern states, Adelaide is an idyllic, friendly, interesting and alive city whose lifestyle competes well with any city in the world.
Q. How would you describe the visual arts scene in South Australia?
A. I would definitely describe the arts scene here in Adelaide and beyond as vibrant, alive, innovative, multi-faceted and busy. I am personally aware of people who come here specifically to indulge in the artistic festivals we have throughout the year, including performance, food, music. The evolving and increasing aboriginal art exhibitions and the impact these are having on a growing national and global awareness of aboriginal contemporary art is also a shot of energy in the creative landscape of Adelaide. I am keen though, for the creative scene of photography in Adelaide to become more prominent and respected as a legitimate art form. This is a challenge, but is happening… slowly.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be an Artist?
A. I have a very strong visual focus. From a very young age I drew, designed houses and cities in old school books with my brother. My first desire was to become an architect but circumstances did not permit (although I have built personal houses since), and after my high school years of Maths and Sciences, I left to go to SA School of Art, being admitted on the merits of a portfolio. I always understood that making a living as an artist was not within my capability, and I found I took to teaching really well, and loved it. It also informed and refined my own artistic abilities. Photography began when I was in my early teens, and while I was the recorder of family events since then until today, I was always off taking more ‘arty’ photographs for potential use in my painting work. It’s now, in my life after work, that I am fulfilling that passion to immerse myself in my photographic art work and projects.
Q. How would you describe your art?
A. I would describe my art as non-reactionary, considered, unsentimental, constructed with careful control and intended to elicit curiosity. The message is a compositional one, and is not intended to reveal a lot about my inner thoughts and musings. I am essentially a visual person, and the story of my work is in the constructs of the photographic image.
Q. Is your art based on any particular themes &/or ideas?
A. My fascination is with the Japanese concepts of Wabi-Sabi: incompletion, imperfection and transience. Traditionally, these three concepts focus primarily on nature, and its imperfect, unpredictable, organic form that is asymmetrical and independent of man’s control. By contrast, my work is trying to find some of these Wabi-Sabi meanings in the materialistic, urban modernism, which reflects man’s desire to control, construct and regulate, using rules and logic to strive for symmetry, regularity and perfection. This theme is sourced from the structural, architectural forms and markings that are found in urban settings – particularly ports of departure such as sea, air and rail. I refer to these locations as non-places (Marc Augé, 1995), and for me, they are typified by city streets, intersections, airports, harbours, railway stations, and other points of arrival, departure and passing traffic.
Q. Where did you start your journey as a visual artist (formal education)?
A. My formal art education began in 1969, while attending the SA Scool of Art in Stanley Street as part of the Western Teachers College Art Teachers course.I specialised in painting and print-making. On graduating, I taught in NSW for three years before coming back to SA. I have always participated in part-time improving of my art skills (fabrics, jewellery, oil painting, design). In 2000, I also went back to UniSA to convert my teaching qualifications to a Bachelor of Visual Communication (Graphic Design). As I have always had a passion for photography, I decided to up my skills in 2004, by enrolling at the Centre for Creative photography in Richmond, gaining very practical photography skills and my Certificate IV in Photo Imaging. In 2014 I followed this up with a post Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts and Design (Photography).
Q. Who has influenced your style, during either formal education or in your personal experience?
A. My personal style has largely been influenced by Geoff Wilson, a very well known and highly skilled artist and teacher, who had a huge impact on the many students he taught. I benefited greatly from his colour theory and the way I learned to simplify and geometrically analyse form and the environment.
From the moment I saw Jeffrey Smart’s ‘Cahill Expressway’ I have been hooked on his paintings and compositions, legitimising and beautifying the urban landscape that to most is less interesting. As I research and explore further, I am also hugely taken with the photographic work of Rodchencko, Maholy-Nagy and others of that era when real experimentation happened in photography.
Q. Who inspires you &/or who are your favourite artists at the moment?
A. Right now I am inspired by the work and discussions of Sean Scully, painter and photographer. He offers much to contemplate in how he works and what he is trying to achieve. I am also very keen on the work of Katherine Westerhout, an American photographer in California, who photographs the abandoned buildings in the cities of the west coast. Her work is haunting, serene and compositionally beautiful. I continue to read and research the Wabi-Sabi concepts of Japan as they are elusive to understand and a noble pursuit in seeking to present the beautiful and serene in the ugly and discarded in my work.
Q. Are you able to make a living as an artist?
A. No, essentially I am not. I am pursuing a more commercial/architectural photographic career in support of my ‘other habit’. Having said that, it is all part of the growth of ideas and creativity and I am crazy about photography, so I will explore it, use it and offer it to as many as I can, I whatever format that is.
Q. Are there any other mediums that you enjoy working with?
A. I am a painter (oils and acrylic), but my painting is digitally through my photographs now.
Q. What projects are you currently working on, if any?
A. I am working on two projects currently, creating new works from the port images I continue to take, in exploring transience, imperfection and incompletion. But I am also starting out on a project of working from abandoned buildings and their interiors.
Q. Are there any aspects of your art that you find particularly challenging?
A. Funding and self-sufficiency in being and artist, and finding mentors that understand the Japanese and the concepts of Wabi-Sabi. Generally, finding mentors in artistic photography is not easy although some contact was offered for a short time at university.
Q. Which is more important to you, the symbolic meaning of your work or the visual presentation?
A. Essentially, the visual presentation is more important, as I want my work to be understood and appreciated by most without it having to be analysed and explained in order to get it. I want people to see good things, beauty in that urban area which is not loved or ignored.
Q. Do you have favourite pieces from your portfolio? Why?
A. My favourite pieces are brief, as I move forward with my work, but I am particularly fond of ‘TUG’ as it summarises my intent: easy to look at, great sense of materiality of the medium, and a little twist to the image.
Q. Describe the ideal environment for your creative process.
A. My studio at home, where I have great light and views over the Adelaide foothills with its constantly changing light and form. Ideally, it would also be great to work in a studio with other photographers, but that will come.
Q. What does a typical day at work look like for you as an artist?
A. If working in the studio, I begin first thing in the day, with the day planned and clear ideas of what I want to achieve. Other days are for shooting and exploring and begin early. Being a Guide at the Art Gallery of SA, I have set days each month when we meet and I conduct rostered tours for schools and the public. Although I always take photos, I try to spend at least one or two days a month in serious work for my projects. Then of course there is the admin side of Equipment, software maintenance, personal development, and chasing up leads and meeting people to gain access to sites. I do a lot of my photography also when I travel. No day is the same, and I essentially work through a list of activities that are prioritised over a month.
Q. How has media (traditional or social) influenced your art?
A. It has broadened my contact group, and introduced me to new groups and people who share common interests in photography. It has also extended my reach interstate and overseas where I have exhibited and sold works.
Q. Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?
A. Most definitely. There is lots to learn from and be inspired by others, and I have many skills and experience to help others also.
Q. What advice would you give someone who aspires to a career in the visual arts?
A. I noted from a presentation given a few years ago by William Long, a quote he offered from Walt Disney. “Somehow I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarised by four C’s. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”
What more can I say?