Narelle Autio & Trent Parke - To the Sea
Exhibition: 13 November to 21 December, 2013
© Narelle Autio
© Trent Parke
To the Sea presents two distinct perspectives of a journey taken side by side.
It started in 2003, when Trent Parke and Narelle Autio drove around Australia—a road trip that changed their lives in more ways than one. It saw the birth of their first child Jem and of their independently acclaimed series; Parke’s foreboding Minutes to Midnight and Autio’s celebratory Watercolours. To the Sea presents an alternative tale of that trip, and many others that followed. By interweaving unseen images from the artists’ photo archive, this new story is more meandering, uncensored, an internal monologue of sorts. As the title suggests, To the Sea, is about the journey more than its destinations, responding to emotional and psychological terrain as much as their immediate physical one.
Parke’s works take shape as four individually titled photo books, with each unravelling a narrative through a trail of images. The remarkable is revealed where you’d least expect it; branches in the undergrowth, the dust cloud from a speeding vehicle, the mass moth murder at the hands of a sheet of flypaper. All are transformed from the ordinary to extraordinary, somehow abstracted, and beautiful. Stories are formed out of these collections of moments, with each image connecting to the next. Playing with scale, some images are printed strikingly large, while the majority take on a storyboard like quality, as strips of small, intimate works stretch sideways across the gallery wall. Within the content there is a levelling of the banal and breathtaking, where lines and light recur in vast landscapes and tiny details alike.
Autio’s work presents the outback in a way many have experienced but few have captured. Taken at high speed through the windows of their car, images of semi-arid terrain appear smudged horizontally, like the unapologetic brushstrokes of abstract expressionist paintings. These stretches of colour dissolve details, revealing a truth, not so much about the landscape, but the emotional space of travel. Gazing into the images is like gazing outward to a world speeding by, evoking that internal, deeply reflective space that is unique to long distance travel. For Autio, the rapidly changing scapes made visible, perhaps almost tangible, an unrelenting sense that life was moving too fast. With vibrant, loud colours she conjures this hyper reality, while subtly eliciting a complex and quiet melancholia. Other images, like flashbacks, offer still moments of clarity; a Joey pauses on an endless stretch of road, while a burnt-out car is abandoned in the dust like a corpse. Reflecting the outback’s capacity to make acute the delicate line between life and death, Autio’s work engenders a bittersweet meditation—as time stands still in one sense, it flies away in another.
In To the Sea Autio and Parke’s intuitive responses to light, and life, offer so much more than the simple documentation of a trip. Like stories within a story, their works reflect on the nature of subjectivity: our intensely unique and private observations of the world, and, if you look longer enough and close enough, the truth that everything eventually ties together.