Stills Gallery, Photography, Sydney, Australia
Wednesday July 25, 2012 - Saturday August 25, 2012 - Event ended.
Narelle Autio’s new series, Water hole, celebrates the otherworldly beauty of the dark waters she encountered whilst travelling through parts of Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. Driving through these dry and remote areas of Australia, she found herself pulled towards the isolated bodies of water that dot the landscape. These waterholes dictated the path of her travels, crossing the parched earth of the day to arrive at waters edge by afternoon.
Unlike earlier bodies of work, which celebrated the restorative powers of the coast, these new works explore these dark inland waters that seem more ancient and full of complexity, despite their stillness. The surfaces give nothing away and the depths offer only corridors of light for swimmers. Diving in seems like returning to prehistory, with its alien landscapes and creatures. Autio’s images don’t offer an easy or obvious take on this beauty. Her figures are disconcertingly anonymous and at the mercy of their surroundings, invariably their heads are lost to abstracted fields of colour. Limbs don’t so much disappear into watery depths as protrude up from them, mirroring the knobbly silhouettes of coral.
Autio explores a mysterious and shadowy place beyond ordinary human experience. The distance between above and below the surface is more than merely physical. Her underwater landscapes contain an element of dark fantasy, like the mythological underworld of Persephone. Plant life rises, waxy and gnarled in texture like sculptural forms, weed scratches the surface of the visual plane like abstract expressionist drips of paint and uncountable hexagons of light seem to equally construct the images from dots as they fleck and obliterate their surfaces.
Narelle Autio began exhibiting in 2000, collaborating with Trent Parke on The Seventh Wave. This was followed in 2002 by the series Not of this Earth. In 2002, Autio was chosen as the winner of the international Leica Oskar Barnack Award for her series Coastal Dwellers. She was the first Australian to win this prestigious award. This win added to an already impressive list of achievements including World Press Awards, an American Picture of the Year Award and a Walkley Award. Watercolours (2004) continued her exploration of Australians at leisure. The Place in Between (2007) was selected for exhibition in Wonderful World 2007 (held at the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, SA), a group show of contemporary Australian artists working around issues of human interaction with the natural world. The Summer of Us (2009), documents what we and the ocean have left behind over those long summer days, a melancholy reminder of a time spent and gone. Autio’s work has been published and exhibited throughout the world and is held in the collections of the Art Gallery NSW, Parliament House Collection, Artbank, National Gallery of Victoria, Samstag Museum of Art SA, Australian National Maritime Museum as well as many private and corporate collections.