*Please note due to COVID-19 lockdowns in Auckland, dates are subject to change.
One of New Zealand’s seminal photographers, Laurence Aberhart, is a self-taught photographer with a notable style; his work seemingly transcends time. Now in his seventies Aberhart continues to resist the digital age and produces contemporary photographs captured through an analogue historical lens, skilfully utilising an antique Korona View Camera. The results are black and white photographs that balance compositional precision with intense atmosphere.
Large Works 2021features 5 new works printed in a monochrome printing process using palladium platinum (known as platinotypes). This process allows a deeper variety of monochromatic tones from the coolest greys to reddish sepia to deep black. Each work takes on different tonal qualities that alter the mood of the image. This body of work reflects three different decades of Aberhart’s practice spanning from the 1980s - 2000s, and encompasses locational subjects familiar to his oeuvre including, Taranaki, Castlecliff, Hawkes Bay, Otago, and Northland.
There is a striking compositional feature that ties this grouping together, which is the apt use of the horizon line stretching across the bottom half of each frame. This technique is called the rule of thirds. Within these works, this creates a predominance of compositional space given to the enduring expanse of the sky. And the skies that Aberhart manages to summon into his frames are mesmerising. We all know that the sky is a place of constant change, constant drama within our life here on earth. It is uncontrollable, inescapable. Aberhart’s photographs capture the skies in a way that transports the viewer to a familiar place of understanding. Despite us never having been there in that very moment, we have all experienced the serene stillness or gusty flurry of the sky. This sparks a connection between the viewer, Aberhart himself, and our shared human experiences of memory, time and place.
As Christchurch Art Gallery senior curator Justin Paton has noted on Aberhart’s oeuvre:
Aberhart doesn’t spell anything out or overdo the symbolism. He keeps his title bluntly descriptive. But despite that reserve-maybe even because of it- the photograph effortlessly evokes something larger than its immediate subject. The depth of space, the encroaching darkness, the continuity of tone… all of this makes us feel, almost physically, the stretch between past and present.
Aberhart’s works are held in public institutions and private collections, both in New Zealand and abroad. He has exhibited internationally, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
‘Aberhart’s magic light’ (2008) Press, The, p. D1. Available at: https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=anh&AN=CHP080709D00118129502-GV&site=eds-live (Accessed: 23 August 2021).
Work Image: Aberhart, Near Moonlight, Taieri Ridge, Otago, 18 February 1999, 1999/2020, Platinum palladium print, 600 x 1050mm