Exhibition: Return to Nature – Monash Gallery of Art

Exhibition: Return to Nature – Monash Gallery of Art

Landscape as a subject has persisted through art history, but perspectives on it have shifted through time, just as attitudes towards Australia’s landscape have varied considerably throughout recent history. Seeing through the lenses of over 40 photographers, including colonialists of the 1870s and contemporary artists working today, Return to nature considers the Australian landscape in its many forms. From nature as something to conquer, to something to protect, this exhibition encompasses a range of approaches to landscape, including an enduring sentiment held by First Nations people that there is no separation between humans and the natural world, rather there is interconnection and interdependence.

MGA’s collection began in 1979. Becoming photography specific in the early 1980s, the collection was able to seize the opportunity to collect both historic and contemporary examples of Australian photography. The very first collection consultant for the gallery was John Cato, who advised on the acquisitions of works by photographers represented in this exhibition, including Norman Carthcart Deck, Max Dupain and David Moore.

At a time when our environment is at the forefront of many Australians’ minds, this exhibition takes key works from MGA’s significant collection of Australian photographs to explore various attitudes to the environment through landscape photography. This will be the first showing of some important new MGA acquisitions such as Narelle Autio’s sumptuous underwater images of Australian waterholes, an extensive set of John Cato’s abstracted photographs of Australian trees and Nici Cumpston’s superbly hand-coloured photographs of ancestor trees along the Barka (Murray Darling River). These collection works are accompanied by a new iteration of ‘Interference pattern’ (2018– ) by Rebecca Nadjowski and Vivian Cooper Smith, a vast and vibrant exploration of what it means to make photographs with the landscape rather than of it.

Artists: Micky Allan, Bruce Attwell, Narelle Autio, Charles Bayliss, Mervyn Bishop Edward Burtynsky, Nicholas Caire, John Cato, Harold Cazneaux, Peta Clancy, Nici Cumpston, Norman Cathcart Deck, Peter Dombrovskis, Marian Drew, John Bertram Eaton, Peter Elliston, Stanley W Eutrope, Joyce Evans, Anne Ferran, Robert Fielding, Murray Fredericks, Viva Gibb, Tom Goldner, John Gollings, Peter Jarver, John Kauffmann, Charles Kerry, Henry King, Katrin Koenning, Ruth Maddison, Danie Mellor, David Moore, Jack Morrison, Rebecca Najdowski And Vivian Cooper Smith, Terry Naughton, Trent Parke, Jon Rhodes, Jo Scicluna, Wesley Stacey, Samuel Sweet, David Tatnall, Brian Thompson, James Tylor, Ingeborg Tyssen, Gordon Undy, Amanda Williams, Laurie Wilson.

Return to nature takes us on a journey through the Australian landscape as envisaged by over 40 photographers from the 1870s through to today. Capturing a variety of historical moments, as well as varying approaches to the land and photography, this exhibition brings out some rarely seen MGA Collection gems, as well as some new acquisitions and all-time favourites. It is always a pleasure to curate MGA’s collection into new contexts and this exhibition is an opportunity to explore the gallery’s holdings of landscape photographs and to view them in a new light. It is also an opportunity to reflect on our changing relationship to nature, our impact on the environment and the important role photography has played in both conquering and protecting Australia’s natural places.’ Stella Loftus-Hills, MGA Curator.

‘Australia’s landscapes are full of diversity and history, and as soon as photography was introduced to the great southern land, it became a medium with which to frame and understand the landscape. This exhibition has presented an opportunity to mine the MGA Collection for representations of the Australian landscape that articulate how those living in Australia have viewed, treated and occupied its landscape.’Pippa Milne, MGA Senior Curator.

Monash Gallery of Art. Victoria. 8 July – 18 September 2022

Main photograph above: Peter DOMBROVSKIS. Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania  c. 1980. Pigment ink-jet print 74.1 x 94.2 cm. Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection. Acquired 2015.

Harold CAZNEAUX Spirit of endurance 1937 gelatin silver print 37.9 x 39.0 cm Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2015.
John GOLLINGS Untitled 1983 from the series Bushfire aerials gelatin silver print 45.0 x 55.0 cm Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1990.

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David Tatnall is an Australian fine art photographer & editor of View Camera Australia.

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