Megan Jenkinson - Fleet Light
Exhibition: 18 February to 21 March, 2009
The direction of Megan Jenkinson's recent work Fleet Light began with her experiences as a New Zealand Antarctic Artist's Fellow in late 2005. Before and after her time on the ice she immersed herself in the exploratory and scientific literature on Antarctica.
That research took two parallel paths. Firstly an increasing interest in atmospheric effects such as the Aurora Australis phenomenon, and secondly the exploratory and scientific descriptions of the Antarctic experience. These two interests formed the foundation for her current work. On the one hand there was the objective view of science setting out to explain the Antarctic world. However, on the other, there was the unique, strange, and unworldly experience of a monochromatic and uninhabited landscape. At its darkest and most lifeless - in the middle of the Polar night - this landscape is lit up by visually spectacular explosions of celestial colour.
Traditional photography, like hard science, could not fulfill the task of capturing what the eye, not the camera, observes of the Aurora Australis. Instead Jenkinson uses the lenticular image process, involving the digital reconstitution of several images into a single print. As a ridged lens covering the print simultaneously reveals and conceals its elements, a shifting and illusory effect arises from the movement of the viewer in front of the work.
The Certain Islands series arose largely from Jenkinson's reading of exploration journals in which the peculiar phenomenon of mirage islands was frequently mentioned. It seems many 18th Century explorers had sighted, named, and carefully charted a number of Antarctic islands yet they had disappeared when later expeditions searched for them. The obvious explanation that they were actually huge icebergs is not in fact the case, but rather it seems Polar mirages were the cause. Distance, scale and certainty are notoriously fickle in those regions and still fool even the most seasoned observers, sometimes with tragic consequences. Jenkinson again uses the lenticular process to entice the viewer into an unnerving world; where cold grey seas promise islands that appear and disappear, almost as if one stood on the freezing deck of an explorer's ship.
Jenkinson's work challenges the viewer to accept uncertainty as an opportunity. Continuing the exploration of colour and perception and the notion that the surface of things is not the same as their substance, Jenkinson's work considers how what we see and believe is not necessarily based upon the facts that we are presented with.
Jenkinson is currently a Senior Lecturer at The University of Auckland. She began exhibiting her photographic works during the 1980s, including featuring work in the seminal exhibition Photography Now, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Jenkinson has continued to exhibit nationally and internationally, including the Sydney Biennale (1990), the Sharjah Biennale (1999) and the touring exhibiting The Light Horizon (2008). She has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards and has work held in institutions including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Australia, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. This is her first exhibition with Stills Gallery.