Narelle Autio - Watercolours

Exhibition: 17 November to 18 December, 2004

Narelle Autio

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Narelle Autio's vibrant and award-winning images of Australians at leisure have won her impressive national and international acclaim. She was one of three photographers selected in the Australian Art Collectors Magazine's "50 most collectable Australian artists" in 2001.

Autio's latest body of work Watercolours, while very much about the way Australians live, is also a personal story about her attraction to the beach, the unpredictable nature of the ocean and the ever-changing coastal environment. Taken during a two-year journey around Australia these images form a diary of two summers. But more than that, they suggest memories of childhood reflected in images of the present. They are potent re-imaginings of the experience of freedom and play, bringing to mind the visceral experience of childhood summers - of being dumped by big waves and covered in sand, the eternal seconds between jumping off a rock and hitting the water, the heady mix of suntan oil and sun.

One beauty of Autio's work is its ability to speak to so many people about their own experience of being coastal dwellers. Another is the play of colour and light in the photographs, giving them a magic and painterly quality that transcends the usual depictions of the beach. Autio's images give back to the coastline the complexity, drama and beauty that are eroded by postcards and clichés.

In 2002, Autio was chosen as the winner of the prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack Award (Germany), for her series of colour photographs Coastal Dwellers. She is the first Australian to win. This added to an already notable list of achievements including World Press Awards, an American Picture of the Year Award and two Walkley Awards. Over the past two years Autio's Coastal Dwellers was showcased in festivals and Art Fairs in the Netherlands, New York, a number of regional Australian galleries and the FotoFreo exhibition in Fremantle. In 2000, Autio collaborated with Trent Parke to publish a book of black and white photographs of swimmers, entitled The Seventh Wave. The powerful and lyrical images in this series capture the drama and otherworldliness that lies beneath the surface of the water. Images from the book have won prizes in the USA and Europe. The Seventh Wave was exhibited as STILLS Gallery in 2001.