Exhibition: Transfigurations by Megan Jenkinson

atmospheric_optics

Stills Gallery. Sydney

Until 20 September 2014

Do you remember how wondrous those magic postcards used to be? That simple pleasure of tilting them backwards and forwards to see an image transform in your hands? Celebrated New Zealand photographer Megan Jenkinson is well known for working at the cutting edge of that same ‘lenticular’ technology. In the past she has reanimated the atmospheric anomalies of glacial islands, desert oases, and the illuminated nights skies of Aurora Australis. Now, in a selection of recently created works, Jenkinson takes us to the other end of the technological spectrum—presenting meticulously hand-folded photographic concertinas, which return us to that seemingly simple illusion. But like its viewers, this illusion has grown in scale and sophistication.

Jenkinson’s panoramic photographic collages—turned three-dimensional objects—are strikingly seductive, but not in an obvious sense. The natural beauty of fruit and flora, trees and sparkling water, is transformed by the zig-zagged concertina surfaces into stripey semi-abstraction. Each concertina comprises two distinct images, which only appear uninterrupted when viewed from either side. An effect, like flipping a ‘moving’ postcard, which keeps you walking back and forth. Previously, Jenkinson used this movement to make environmental illusions appear and disappear as they might have done for the explorers of exotic lands. In contrast, her new works create a more immediate sense of discovery—immediate because the illusion is so explicitly revealed, and because the transformations they capture take place much closer to home.

windfall, for instance, animates the seasonal change of a Persimmon tree. Yet, rather than moving from past to future, its ripe and richly coloured orange fruits shift back and forth in time; between their swelling days of glory and the autumnal moment of fall. In water-into-æther, Jenkinson looks to the transformative possibilities of a camera’s focus. As a humble fountain shoots into the sky, its drops of water resemble a sprinkling of crisp snowflakes, while from the opposite direction they expand into orb-like crystals, hovering midair. There is a gentle irony in the way Jenkinson animates these tiny but significant shifts; the quiet magic of the natural world. After all, it is only when we pass them by that her concertinas reveal to us what might so often pass us by.

Jenkinson has long explored the artistic possibilities of sophisticated digital intervention, and the panoramic images comprising these concertinas are no exception. Nevertheless, there is something comforting about the folded physicality of her ‘simple’ constructions; the sculptural splicings seem to offer respite from the intangible nature of digital manipulation. This does more than create a sense of nostalgia, whether for the magic of ‘moving’ postcards, or for another illusion—pre-digital ‘authenticity’. It makes explicit and uncomplicated the complexity of the natural world, and the temporal, spatial and conceptual mediations of that world, when transfigured through the lens of photography.

Megan Jenkinson has exhibited extensively since the 1980s, including in seminal shows, such as Photography Now, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (1989), the Sydney Biennale (1990), and the Sharjah Biennale (1999). She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards. Her work is held in the AGNSW, NGA, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and The Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Jenkinson is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland.

Megan Jenkinson elegantly engages digital photographic techniques to explore notions of perception and illusion in relation to landscape and history. Having undertaken journeys to Antarctica, Egypt and the Sahara Desert, her works often evoke the contemplative isolation one experiences in vast open spaces. Inspired by naturally occurring illusions, she has recreated through lenticular print technology the visions of non-existent islands that fooled early Antarctic explorers, the majestic Aurora Australis, and the elusive vistas of Oases that taunted desert travellers.

Megan Jenkinson began exhibiting her photographic works during the 1980s, and has been included in seminal shows such asPhotography Now, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (1989), the Sydney Biennale (1990), and the Sharjah Biennale (1999). She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards and has work held in institutions including the AGNSW, NGA, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and The Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

More info at Stills Gallery