Review / Dystopia and humour set the tone at PhotoAccess

Review / “Move up to the views”, David Flanagan, and “Finlandia Hymn”, Anja Loughhead. PhotoAccess. Manuka Arts Centre, cnr NSW Crescent and Manuka Circle, Tuesday to Sunday, until February 26. Reviewed by ANNI DOYLE WAWRZYNCZAK

PHOTOGRAPHER David Flanagan’s fascination with Canberra’s ongoing northern transformation of nature into suburbia is the subject of his exhibition.

Untitled # 9 David Flanagan, Untitled # 9, 2015, C type print

In these 14 marvellous large-format colour photographs, machines and construction detritus litter the blasted landscapes where advertising billboards and banners promise the eventual fulfilment of suburban dreams. 

Rescuing what might otherwise be a series of dystopic visions is Flanagan’s intense focus on weather and detail. In “Untitled #9”, the early evening light rakes across the middle ground, delineating both treelined ridges on the left, earthmoving machines on the right and the far-off mountains. The deeply shadowed hills of transplanted earth in the foreground are matched by the heavy lowering sky of an approaching storm.

David Flanagan, Untitled # 21, 2015, C type print

In ”Untitled #21”, a billboard proclaiming the new suburb of Moncrief as “Full of Possibilities” floats in a degraded landscape, where all, except the crisply delineated foreground, is veiled in early morning mist. The results are fascinating.

Anja Loughhead has been asking herself what it means to be the Australian granddaughter of Finnish migrants. In her two-minute looped video she enacts, against a large, drawn backdrop of cabins and trees, various Finnish tropes – skiing, fishing, eating sausage from a bbq fork, munching from a bag of Finnish sweets. 

Anja Loughhead, “Finlandia Hymn”, 2017, still from video, duration: 2:00)

Filmed from the waist up and in appropriate costumes, Loughhead’s actions are paired with the soundtrack of her plaintive, spare rendition of Sibelius’ 20th century symphony “Finlandia Hymn”. 

The success of the work lies in the artist’s clever combination of humour and seriously naïve pathos as she attempts to crack the code of a familial heritage that is very far removed from her Australian upbringing. 





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