Monthly Archives: March 2014

Dark Heart at SA Gallery – Worth Many Looks

At a time when institutional galleries struggle ever more for relevance, it is good to see the South Australian gallery struggle and succeed.

The 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art has much to recommend it. Sex and Death worked for MONA down in Tassie, so with State and National galleries under pressure to catch up, Death is a pretty safe bet for an edgy (but not too edgy for a State Gallery) theme.

So please – leave your catalogue at home, close your ears to the inevitable gallery guides telling you what you should experience, and walk around with a smile for this clever artwork.

On entry, Julia deVille’s room is a treat, and the cat as Victorian bride/mummy is a particular delight.


There’s a lovely absurdity about the work, and the Victorian separation from reality is marvellous, with its unsettling nuance of Beatrix Potter’s animals-as-people.

Walking on through, Trent Park’s room of vastly enlarged photographs is another highlight.


Anyone familiar with Antonioni’s masterwork “Blow-Up” (1966) will get the concept of the film negative enlarged until the grain takes over, but for me this resonates even more in the digital age, when we are increasingly forced to decide for ourselves the point at which the surface ends and the image begins. This is good, successful photography on an institutional scale.

Skip Sally Smart next door and go through to Brook Andrew.


He’s taken early colonial illustrations of indigenous Aussies and screen printed them onto metallic backgrounds. It worked for Andy Warhol and it works for this Andrew. Like Trent Park’s work, the interplay between the surface of the work and the larger image is what makes it intriguing. Go and stick your nose in it.

Then duck back for a break with a bit of good video art.


(Yes, I know “good video art” is an oxymoron, but bear with me here) Richard Lewer’s animated piece is great. Simple, warm drawing and faux-simple animation techniques tell the story of a failed suicide pact. Sounds grim, but remember how Romeo and Juliet ended up, and that was a love story too. Maybe it belongs more on YouTube, but its presence here in the gallery pointed out to me how crap the other Video work in the show is. An unintended consequence perhaps, but a happy one.

The Ben Quilty work is a huge disappointment, because it’s huge, and it’s a disappointment.


I’m a big Quilty fan. I love his virtuosic control over thick oil and his brilliant draughtsmanship. I’m glad we have an Art superstar in Oz and I’m glad it’s someone who can actually paint. But this work is a mess. It’s (yes, literally) a Rorschach blob of an island, with all Ben’s beautiful oil paint squished into a drab smear. Maybe that’s a metaphor, but it ain’t satisfying. The room is full of the wonderful smell of raw oil paint though, so it’s still worth spending some time there.

There’s lots of other stuff of course – gosh, 28 artists and I’ve only mentioned a few. It’s free, so go often: I intend to.

Until 11 May 2014
Art Gallery of South Australia
North Terrace
SA 5000


Lazy Man’s Digital Workflow – Learning from Film

Roof - Sceale Bay

Just because we can now take a million digital shots of every subject and do lots of post processing doesn’t mean we should.

To each their own, but I get no pleasure from digital post processing. I use it as little as possible, and generally only to fix mistakes.

I started working commercially in the days of film. My job was to deliver usable transparencies to the magazine editor to go with articles.

In those days my post-shoot workflow was as follows:

  1. Pick the film up from processing.
  2. Put the trannies on a lightbox.
  3. Throw the bad ones away.
  4. From the usable ones, select the best two or three.
  5. Give them to the editor.

If digital is to make our lives easier, the post process should be easier too.

I confess to shooting raw for commercial work; my work cameras are Nikon, and I find the free NikonView software really good and simple. It allows easy adjustment of colour balance and exposure if I didn’t get those quite right in camera, and also easy quick crop and export as jpegs after.

So – keep it simple.  I paid for my own film on jobs  so I always tried to be economical with it. I’d try to limit a job to about a dozen frames so I could get two or three jobs on a roll. These days it’s possible to shoot even less than that, as bracketing tricky light is not so often needed.

My workflow is now this:

  1. Load files into computer.
    I don’t miss the romance of film; making two trips to the processors for every job was a pain. There is no pleasure in wondering if you’ve stuffed the shots or finding out the best one is soft when you put it on the lightbox.
  2. Look at the pics on NIkonView.
    Believe it or not, looking at images on a 27″ Apple monitor is better than peering at a slide on a lightbox with a loupe.
  3. Delete the bad ones.
    Be brutal here – DELETE DELETE DELETE. There are enough crap photos in the world without any of us adding to the sum.
  4. From the usable ones, select the best two or three.
    I often see commercial photographers giving their clients a load of crap in a folder with a few good shots hidden in there somewhere. To me this is inexcusable. Only give the client shots that are of publishable standard. Three good shots are better than 150 pieces of crap they have to wade through later.
  5. Make any adjustments to colour balance, exposure that are needed, and export as jpeg.
    Never give a client raw files; they will stuff up the colour balance or do some dumbass thing to them and then blame you for giving them bad shots.
  6. Upload the files to Dropbox and email the editor a link.