Visual tales told in avenue of art

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Minimalist work by Murray Fredericks. Photo: Martin Ollman.

TO ANU old-timers, there was always something mystifying about the decision made back in the 1960s to block off University Avenue from the city, provoking forever after a sense of “Town versus Gown”.

Once you could drive up from London Circuit to Bruce Hall without interruption, but that decision and the advent of the concession areas on campus led to a conspicuous separation.

Now aMBUSH Gallery and staff at the Kambri precinct have joined with the ANU to create a handsome avenue of art leading visitors into the campus from the Family Law Court or, conversely, out from the new Kambri residences.

Judith Crispin’s work in the foreground. Background, work by Michael Jalaru Torres. Photo: Martin Ollman.

Recently launched as “Exhibition Avenue”, it’s a striking walkway of cubic structures creating a 24/7 public exhibition space along University Avenue. 

According to Nicole Short, the precinct general manager at Kambri Cultural Centre, the cubes will become home to a free year-round curated program of multidisciplinary arts, which will range though the visual art media from paintings and prints to electronic artworks.

First up is “Where I Stand”, a photographic exhibition curated through a partnership between Kambri, aMBUSH Gallery and Moshe Rosenzveig of Sydney’s “Head On Photo Festival”. 

Large single-frame photos by six Australian photographic artists adorn the four sides of the cubes. 

Sarah Ducker’s post-bushfire landscapes, commissioned for the exhibition. Photo: Martin Ollman.

The 24 selected artworks by Michael Cook, Sarah Ducker, Murray Fredericks, Barbara McGrady, Michael Jalaru Torres and Judith Crispin are intended to explore transformation, rebirth, identity, history, nature, connection and the Dreamtime, but in only one case, Sarah Ducker’s, were they commissioned especially for Exhibition Avenue.

Ducker, a former documentary filmmaker, created images of the burnt landscape in the recent NSW bushfires as “a testament to the majesty of the bush.” But from the apocalypse emerged the potential for radical changes in culture and consciousness and she notes, “surprisingly, I was uplifted by the transcendent glory of the naked trees”. 

Barbara McGrady, a Gamilaroi/Gomeroi Murri Yinah woman who is also a trained sociologist and sports lover, describes her work as “a decolonising intervention into traditional colonial archival spaces” as she captures Aboriginal experiences through the lens of politics, sport, dance, song, community and family.

Queensland’s Michael Cook explores issues of identity affected by his own adoption in the late 1960s. “Mother” is his most intensely personal work to date and while his disturbing images relate directly to Australia’s Stolen Generation, he says, “They speak also to a universal experience of disconnection between mother and child”. 

Work by Michael Cook. Photo: Martin Ollman.

The photographs by Victoria’s Michael Jalaru Torres, originally from Broome, Western Australia, involves conceptual and innovative portraiture and abstract landscape photography, but he also uses written words to take observers down the “rabbit hole” of knowledge, saying, “I want my work to encourage the viewers to seek out more truth of the stories in their own way”.

Four minimalist images by NSW photographer Murray Fredericks originate from the Salt Project (2003-2019) produced at Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre) in South Australia. “Place is defined by boundless empty space, as my own reflections on landscape mediates that space,” he says.

Judith Crispin, a poet, visual artist, academic, photographer, writer and music reviewer for “CityNews”, says she uses her Lumachrome glass prints to illuminate themes of displacement and identity loss centring on connection with Country. 

“They have their genesis in my relationship with two Australian tribal groups – the Bpangerang people, from whom I am descended, and the Warlpiri people who cared for me over the 20 years I spent tracing my family’s heavily-concealed Aboriginal lineage,” Crispin says.

University Avenue, released from bondage at last, provides an accessible avenue for images that both contrast with and reflect the mixed bag of architectural styles on the ANU campus.

“Where I Stand” is on display 24 hours a day along Exhibition Avenue, ANU until October 31, with solar-powered lights illuminating the display.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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