Obscure Camera

Obscure-Camera-invite        My new exhibition is a group show on the outer limits of photographic practice. Each artist explores some non-traditional zone of the medium: non-capture, non-representation and other arcane fields. It opens at Tacit Contemporary Art on June 8.

My works are abstract images from my Chemistry of Chance series. During  decades of cleaning up darkrooms I’ve recovered many discarded prints from the rubbish bins. Students see a print going wrong in the developer and throw it in the bin without washing it. The print sits there with the developer, silver and oxygen making chemical reactions in the dark.

By the end of the day they’ve dried out and the chemical stains are preserved and light-stable. After scanning and Photoshopping to a small degree, I’ve printed them as much larger pigment prints. They fit into my interest in entropy and automatic processes found in the border regions of photography. I see them as Concrete photography, the Swiss and German abstract movement.

It not a sign of something, but is itself something. It is not what is represented but what is present. It engenders objects of itself and thus fulfills the central criterion of every concrete art: self-reference. – Gottfried Jaeger.

Chance5                            Greg Neville, Chemistry of Chance 5

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Man in the Street

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Greg Neville, Man in the Street 1, 2015

My new solo exhibition, Man in the Street, opens at Tacit gallery on June 10.

The source of these images is my collection of Edwardian travel postcards, views of New York, London and other cities at the start of the 20th century.

These postcards show big city streets and tall buildings, but in the details you can find tiny human figures, a few millimetres in size, who happened to be captured by the camera. Enlarged to make gallery-size prints, the figures are fragmented by the printers dots and have an elemental quality, bordering on abstraction.

These anonymous individuals are caught up in their busy work, or stand motionless, seemingly lost in thought. Since they were photographed more than a century ago, they are long dead, but the camera brings them back to life, at least provisionally.

The exhibition opens at Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston St Abbotsford, on June 10, from 6.30 to 8pm. It runs until June 21.

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Momentary exhibition

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Greg Neville, installation view, Momentary, Tacit Contemporary Art, 2014

Momentary is a group exhibition at Tacit Contemporary Art in Johnston St Abbotsford. It’s open until Sunday December 21. I share the gallery with colleagues (and former students) Bernadette Boundy, Sue Lock, Margot Sharman, Sally D’Orsogna and Cathy Hayward. The theme is the word Momentary, a suitable hook for a photomedia exhibition. My work is a small series of faded portraits:

John Greenleaf Whittier was a 19th century American poet and anti-slavery campaigner. Such was his fame that towns were named after him, and yet today he is largely forgotten. These images are taken from the portraits of Whittier in the six-volume complete works published in 1888, the printed engravings show him at different ages, from young to old. The dis-coloured paper and fading likenesses show the dissolving effects of age and decay, the arrow of time.

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Momentary

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My last exhibition for 2014 is a group show called Momentary, opening next week at Tacit. This is the third annual exhibition with this group of friends who are former students of mine. The theme is the word momentary, chosen for its allusion to the photographic process but open to wide interpretation.

My work is a series of prints taken from the engraved portraits of the 19th century poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Each of his six-volume complete works published in 1888 contains a portrait made at a different stage of his life, from young to old. The discolouring and fading makes a beautiful and melancholy image.

Momentary opens at Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston Street, Abbotsford at 6.30pm on Wednesday December 3.

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Greg Neville, Whittier 1, 2014

Sean’s Gooog

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This is the catalogue essay Sean Payne wrote for my current exhibition Gooog, which is showing at Tacit Contemporary Art. Design by Daniel Neville.

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The word-fragment ‘Gooog’ stamps Greg Neville’s works derived from the virtual globe as emblems of their time. It appears in several of his pictures, a found palindrome, the number of vowels determined by the size of the segment he clips, duplicates and mirrors from the world-sized image in which it originally appeared.

 He is one of many contemporary artists whose primary material is Google Earth, an internet-based snapshot of geological, sociological, and architectural time; a matrix of images stitched to make a virtual world.

 He treats the images as found objects, stitching them together, upending the usual orientations around a central point. The repetition of the technique is another step in Neville’s long-held interest in found images and in automatic processes of generating imagery, whose outcome is only partly directed or predictable.

 The matrix irresistibly evokes Persian carpets, and like a magic carpet, we use it to fly above the world through a virtual sky. Looking down, human concerns blur into abstraction, another detail in the landscape.

 Roads carry associations in our culture with the promise of the future, the sense that things might be better somewhere else. But Neville’s roads lead nowhere, in endless loops, ironically denying the possibility of progress. In conversation, he links this with information decay, of things running down, energy distributed toward a state of equilibrium, entropy. When applied to human endeavours, as it is here, the image is terrifying.

 From the ground, towers thrust, but reversing the viewpoint strips them of their value as propaganda. The view from above diminishes all it surveys. The satellite is an eye without discrimination, pitiless. Even the turgid aspirations of billionaires to claim possession of the sky, like frontier real estate, are reduced to Babel-like hubris; they are futile, flaccid. ‘In Praise of Folly’ might be this exhibition’s subtitle. In this, Neville’s work reveals kinship with Andreas Gursky, an artist similarly inclined to view human concerns from a distance, subject to forces beyond our control.

 The digital artefacts heightened by the artist emphasise a reading of the world as image, an incomplete one. The best maps, even global positioning systems, describe the landscape imperfectly, as words describe the phenomenal world, with uncertainty. The image breaks when looked at closely enough. The disruptions technically indicate a failure of resolution. In a digital image, this has associations of clarity or sharpness, and when applied to human intentionality, it has the positive echo of resolve. But the double meaning is sourly ironic here. There might be resolve, but the insufficient resolution of the image shows the cracks where reality is imperfectly rendered.

 In the light of recent revelations of domestic surveillance programs of unimaginable size and breadth, the notion that we are all being recorded from the sky feels more sinister than it once did. Lethal use of drones is now frequently reported, and the corporations that make them advertise their photographic and media potential. Certainly, there is a malevolent background frequency to Neville’s often-beautiful images that we can detect when listening hard enough. There is less distinction now between the lens and the gun than ever.

 Sean Payne, Deakin University

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My Gooog

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Greg Neville, Gooog installation, Tacit Contemporary Art, 2014

My exhibition Gooog opened at Tacit last Wednesday. This is my biggest solo exhibition for many years, based on images from Google Earth. It has something to say about photography in the new digital online environment. Google Earth/Google Street View is the largest photographic project in history and it merits attention from photographers and artists.

Tacit Contemporary Art is at 312 Johnston St Abbotsford, and is open Wednesday-Friday 11-6, Saturday-Sunday 11-5.

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