bare | Review

Wow… period.  What a brilliant Preview Night on Saturday at The Mango Lab. With the brief centering around the use and influence of the nude in photography, this Saturday Club would by no means be an easy task for the participants. After going through the testing efforts of concept development one would be faced to either ask friends to “bare” the goods, photograph one’s self or pay artist fees and work with a stranger at either home (cheap but maybe a bit odd) or studio (professional but expensive). Having only about two and a half weeks to compose a piece for the exhibition would be the next level of difficulty. There would be the exposure issue – that once placed on the wall there would be no turning back. With HTC’s and iPhones prepared to make immediate updates would mean one’s nakedness could be broadcast almost as quick as the piece was unveiled. This would be an absolute relinquishing of control. And then there would of course be the usual self-talk throughout the entire process – the stuff only each individual’s ego knows so well. But all participants were made aware of these challenges and with that they proceeded with the brief.

Saturday early evening, before Preview Night.  As the curator, I was becoming a bit concerned, downright nervous actually. Having heard not much of anything from many of the artists I realised at some point that there was no commitment here. No investment that full time artists and photographers have to contend with. The success of these Saturday Clubs is that they offer a creative outlet to people who enjoy creating images. While past briefs may be creatively challenging or insightful, they never before involved putting one’s self on the line in the manner that nude photography can. The stillness was a sign that participants had ejected themselves from an anxiety provoking exercise given the many many inherent levels of “exposure”. Afterall, this show was really going to be about baring not only the flesh – but also the soul. For many this would be their first step into this lake of creativity and I hadn’t anticipated that as with any potential cold water dip, some stick a toe in and conclude that is enough. Been there, tested it, done that. So in this exercise, having just pursued the photography in the privacy of one’s own space may have been the figurative “toe in water”. To go public with it meant full immersion. With guests coming, an evening set up and prepared I got to thinking — maybe the water was too cold on this one and I would be the only one swimming.

But then the work began to arrive. But not just any work – well thought out, conceptual, beautifully shot and BRAVE work. As the packaging was removed and the prints began to rest on the walls, an air of confidence began building in our humble gallery. To see the work on a brilliant white wall, open and exposed to the viewers, a deep breath of freedom filled the space. A freedom one feels at the apex of graduation somewhere in the crossing from the left side of the stage to the right, in that journey of thirty steps or so, where the mind shifts into a new skin.  This task, filled with so many tests of courage and commitment, now had the performance done. The artist could now step back be available to come what may.

As the night engaged and guests arrived, the buzz in the air was contagious. Young artists participated in discussions with viewers, artists speaking to the other artists, notes and experiences were compared, processes and adventures shared. It was a wonderful sight. The sort of thing that makes pulling a show together all worth while. Q+A came and the artists now could speak to the room and fill the blanks in the history of their personal achievements. Tell the stories behind their photographic trophies. The connection between aesthetics and personal narrative were compelling. The results raw and, for me at least, honest. I left the evening feeling like I had a long conversation with an old friend.

If you would like to attend our next Saturday Club please go here.

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