Artereal Gallery is proud to present An Ocean in Your Hand, a new series of intimate and unique one-off artist proofs drawn from Simone Douglas’ larger forthcoming photographic series Songs for the Earth.
Based between New York and Sydney, Douglas is widely respected as an important Australian contemporary artist. A true ‘artist’s artist,’ she is particularly well known for her poetic, ethereal and mysterious photographic odes to the land, sea and sky.
As part of this exclusively online exhibition, Douglas reveals part of an ongoing creative process that will continue to grow as the larger series develops.
To view & acquire artworks scroll to the end of this online exhibition page.
Seeking to evoke processes of elemental change, these durational ‘landscapes’ are presented as fluid forms extending towards unfathomable realms, all the while suggesting that the world is not a fixed experience. By instantiating encounters between the intimate and the infinite, I wish to foreground symbiotic relationships with the world, where actions and environment might form entwined narratives and suggest an unfolding eternity of being.
Made in ‘slow time’, each image was formed over a period of months using light drawings and alchemical processes. Encapsulating a year of skies, tides and storm waves, each image attends to an immensity in dynamic intensity.
Artist Statement, 2021
Douglas has spent the last 18 months in dialogue with light as medium. Having returned from New York when the COVID19 pandemic first hit in March 2020, the Australian born artist has since lived a semi-nocturnal existence, spending long nights teaching her New York based students at Parsons School of Design via Zoom.
This intensive iterative lived experience has contributed to the dispositional orientation underpinning the artist’s latest series of works, which have slowly developed into this series of carefully nurtured apparitions through past and present lockdowns. Consequently, each work is implicitly reflective of this profoundly collective contemporary experience. The feeling that time has slowed down, that the world has subtly tilted on its axis, and that we are seeing things as we’ve never quite seen them before, is richly apparent in this otherworldly series.
For Douglas, the experience of watching the nightly journey of the moon across the sky is now a familiar sight, with the pre-dawn sounds of native birds a familiar accompanying soundtrack. By day, Douglas traverses the edges of Sydney’s vast bodies of water. Dipping into the harbour, immersing herself in its waters, and skirting its edges, she has alchemically conjured up a series of images which attend to the time and land in which she finds herself.
The intensity of the land, and her intermittently reunited relationship to a country where she feels at once inextricably connected to and necessarily alien, has proven to be fertile ground for the creation of these works. An extension of her earlier series Eternal Return, Douglas has once again created work that seeks to gently remind us of our smallness and fragility in relation to nature.
For Douglas, the harbour and water are a connective force that hold our collective history. Here, making sense of the local landscape and waterways through different lenses and readings has, on one level, also become a metaphor for making sense of the world right now.
The creation of this series is also in many ways a return to the early bodies of work that Douglas made in the 1990s. Titled Aberrations these early works marked the start of her ongoing interest in forming experimental images underwater. Seemingly made without gravity, free floating in the water, Douglas’ new and old works both harness and abstract the elemental forces that surround us.
Over the last twelve months Douglas has returned to her roots, creating, layering and abstracting a series of images inspired by Sydney Harbour’s iconic waterline and skyline. The resulting artworks are not instantaneous. Instead, they are photographs slowly made over time, and are based on slow observations and a slow layering process. They speculatively capture a slowing down of time and gently resist photography’s historical emphasis upon capturing a moment. Here, photography’s task is instead directed towards capturing the magnitude of time.
We invite you to contemplate this intimate and gemlike series of images, all of which are small enough to be held in the palm of your hand. We also invite you to engage with the colours of the night sky, the physicality of the water, and the luminosity of the crepuscular night sky. Finally, we invite you to connect with the immensity and intensity of our fragile existences on a small blue ball shimmering in the deep.
Rhianna Melhem, Curator
Douglas was born on the lands of the Eora Nation, (Sydney) Australia. “The first air I ever breathed was the salt air of the ocean.” She now lives and works between Le Lenape land in New York City and Gadigal land in Sydney. Although primarily based in New York City, her homeland in Australia remains the generative source of much of her work.
Douglas has engaged in an extensive international career, and her works have been curated into international survey exhibitions and published widely in journals and art anthologies. Her practice embraces photography, sculpture, video and durational site-specific works. Her work has been featured in international exhibitions including Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (a 200-year survey exhibition curated by Geoffrey Batchen); Sites of Knowledge, Jane Lombard Gallery (curated by Re-Sited); Shadow Catchers, Art Gallery of New South Wales (curated by Isobel Parker Philip) and Recent Acquisitions for the Photography Collection, Victoria & Albert Museum (curated by Mark Haworth-Booth).
Working across 2D and 3D image/objects using alchemic and durational processes, contemporary issues of the sublime and cultural and environmental legacy are core issues in her work. Douglas’ current active durational multi-site-specific art works, Ice Boat, and Returning the Future, enact a poetic engagement with cultural histories, land and environmental responsibility—both on earth and in the skies.
The internationalised impact of Douglas’ work is evidenced in both reviews and her exhibition profile. For Zachary Zachs in Artforum, her work Ice Boat (Site)’s “reverberation resounds, suggesting that a topology of variance in wood might be as articulate as any string of Latin Letters.” Or, as Natasha Bullock put it in the Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook:
“Simone Douglas uses photography to encapsulate the intangible and reveal the space between memory and consciousness […] These are the spaces of absence and the indescribable areas where unrecalled memories lurk. In conceptualising these aspects Douglas’s images emulate peripheral vision, an intention at odds with the accepted verisimilitudes of photography.”
For Michael Erlhoff, Douglas’ photo-based work:
“…asks important questions as does all important art. Some of these are absolutely fundamental questions. For example: What is light (‘photo’)? And what are signs (‘graphs’)? Or: do you believe what you see? Or do you see what you believe? And why, how, when do you see, if you see? And even further: What, if it exists, is the relationship between watching, looking, seeing, viewing, envisioning, perceiving and on and on…Simone Douglas is an intelligent, serious and engaged artist, what you find in her work are not answers but improved and more expansive questions.”
Douglas’ works have been exhibited internationally and are held in collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney; and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Her work has also been exhibited at various institutions and art spaces including The Jane Lombard Gallery (NYC), the Photographers Gallery (London), the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (Sydney); The National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), the Australian Centre for Photography (Sydney), Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum (Beijing), Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (New Plymouth, New Zealand), Dunedin Public Art Gallery (New Zealand), Athens Fine Art School (Delphi, Greece), Gallery MC (NYC), Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne) and at art fairs such as the European Month of the Photo (Paris), Pulse Miami Beach Contemporary Art Fair (Miami) and The Photography Show presented by AIPAD (NYC) and festivals including The Auckland Festival of Photography and the Pingyao Festival of Photography. Her work has been published in journals including Artforum, Blind Spot, Conveyor (USA), Creative Camera (UK), Art & Australia, Photofile, Qantas Spirit of Australia Inflight Magazine, and art anthologies.
Writing, teaching and curating also represent active extensions of her artistic practice. At Parsons School of Design, The New School in New York City, where she is a tenured Professor, she is actively connected to a vibrant and internationalised community of leading artists. Douglas has also taught at other universities, including Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney; College of Fine Arts UNSW, and the National Art School. Since 2014, Douglas has collaborated with Sean Lowry to produce international conferences (Anywhere and Elsewhere) and publications (Anywhere vi, ii, iii, iv). She also collaborates with The Ghosts of Nothing, including as a cinematographer of, and artist collaborator for, the forthcoming moving image artwork, Sounds of Unridden Waves.
This video is an excerpt of Douglas’ new time based work.
On Time from the forthcoming series, Songs for the Earth, 2021
Single channel moving artwork
View all of the artworks in this online exhibition below. Please click on artwork to view in full screen mode.
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