Perth Centre for Photography unveils two new exhibitions.


Steven Jones

Visitors admire 'Further Closer' Photo by Steven Jones

Steven Jones, Reporter

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Don’t worry, I am not about to delve into philosophy and continue to pose questions which leave us rattled. However, this question can be applied to the WA photography and videography scene. If an artist takes incredible photos, but no one is able to view and admire them, are they still beautiful works of art? Perth has many incredible photographers and videographers and it’s important their work be placed in the public domain, where it can be appreciated by all.

The Perth Centre for Photography (PCP) aims to achieve just that. According to the centre’s website, their goal is to ‘promote and support emerging and established photo-based art in Western Australia,’ and true to their word, their latest exhibitions showcase the work of up-and-coming local artists. Sincerity and Symbiosis by Jacobus Capone and Further Closer by Jane Finlay will run for five weeks at the PCP from Saturday April 27 until May 25. I was lucky enough to attend the grand opening of the exhibitions on Friday April 26 and was intrigued, admittedly sometimes confused, but overall fascinated by the art I saw.

Attending an art exhibition opening was uncharted territory for me and I was unsure about what to expect going into it. Initially, I was very daunted by the prospect and could only hear the nagging I would receive from my parents as a child of ‘you can look but you cannot touch’ over and over in my head. Luckily, that quickly subsided as art connoisseurs and exhibition regulars took me under their wing.

The event was very community focused. Free entry, made it accessible to all, and as the night went on you could see the family and friends of the budding artists pile in. It felt like one big family gathering and you could see how much it meant to the artists to have their close ones around them on their special night.

As the exhibition is located in the heart of Perth’s CBD, many passers-by stopped and stuck their heads in for five minutes or so to admire the work, giving the artists even more exposure. Plus, the mix of characters that waltzed in from the street made for a very relaxed and inviting mood. At one stage a group of ‘Where’s Wally’s’ stopped by on their way to a dress up party giving everyone in their suits and ties a laugh.

Attendees of the opening night were lucky enough to hear Jane Finlay speak about the inspiration for her photography and the importance of the PCP to local artists. Further Closer is definitely an ambiguous title, but Finlay talked about her ‘fascination of anthropomorphism’ as one of the leading inspirations for the body of work. Anthropomorphism is defined as the ‘attribution of human characteristics or behaviour to an object or animal’. However, Finlay took it even further, questioning what parts or characteristics of the human body are ‘inherently human’ and ‘what separates us from other animals when we share much of the same DNA.’

Finlay’s exhibition featured many abstract concepts, such as; drawing constellation-type shapes using freckles or imperfections on human skin. This highlighted how we give the stars their own little personalities and characters even though they are not human.

The body of work was given some continuity, with various different photos of birds scattered throughout. Each image portrayed the bird in a different mood, displaying different emotions.

The piece that really struck me was a picture of a mole-like skin growth. The point of the piece was to challenge us on what body parts are inherently human. For example, we would say humans have two arms and two legs, but if you are born with only one arm does that  make you no-longer human?

Unfortunately, Capone was not available to speak at the opening, however his piece (a 36 minute film) relates somewhat to Finlay’s, something the PCP board labelled as ‘important’. Sincerity and Symbiosis is part of a ‘large ongoing project titled Forewarning.’

The video was multi-channel and involves a young male interacting with a forest plantation. The video could almost be split into thirds. Three vertical lines could be used to divide up the screen as the same young male interacts with the same forest three different ways, at the same time. So basically, in the film there are three different versions of the same male on screen at the same time; one to the left of screen, one to the right and one in the middle. What’s unique about this work is the forest ‘is positioned as the main protagonist’. The forest has clearly gone through some deforestation and the film explores the forest’s pain and the male’s attempts to seek harmony with the forest. Setting the forest as a central character links Capone’s work to Finlay’s, as they both explore anthropomorphism and this gives the two exhibits some continuity.

Art is so subjective and meaning can be so different for each individual. At one stage during the night, one visitor tried to argue the meaning of a picture to the photographer of said picture, an argument the visitor was clearly never going to win. What I found really fascinating about the night was how each image sparks a story or a memory from different people. I found the conversation was more about life events prompted by an image rather than conversation about the art itself. Perhaps this is the reason why people are so passionate about photography. Perhaps this is the reason why Finlay could not stop raving about the importance of the PCP – the work they display brings people together and gives an avenue for artists to grow.