Last year, as Ballarat stumbled from one set of pandemic restrictions to another for the second year in a row, Lake Wendouree became an important outlet for us. We’ve always been drawn to the Botanic Gardens and the lake, where the turn of the seasons is in on full display and there’s an overriding sense of calm: birds, trees, water. During peak Covid, having the lake within our permitted 5km radius was a blessing, a place to walk and to breathe.
So when photographer Ian Kemp last year invited me to write a response to his beautifully composed, atmospherically processed photographs of the western side of the lake – an area largely comprised of Fairyland and ‘the lagoon’ – I had no hesitation in agreeing,
Ian and I had worked together before, in organising collaborative ekphrastic exhibitions combining the forces of the Soldiers Hill Artist Collective and Words Out Loud, but this was our first creative collaboration.
During our harshest period of lockdown in 2020, Ian used his one hour of permitted exercise a day to capture the mood of the time, his monochromatic images, printed on aluminium, showing immense depth even as they fade away at the edges, capturing a sense of isolation, transition and, yes, tranquility.
You don’t need to know the lake to sense the emotion of Ian’s images, but seeing the familiar locale rendered in such a different way focused my response and encouraged me to pay new attention to the area and my relationship to it. The mood of the photographs triggered my response, the essay ‘Hours in Fairyland’, which directly references some elements of the images while expanding outwards to a broader context of pandemic, nature and climate change.
The original concept was entitled Making landscapes…one hour at a time, featuring a range of Ian’s images and my essay, and now there is to be an outing: one of Ian’s splendid photos (at 900mm x 1300mm, it’s seriously striking), ‘There is rapture in solitude and space’, and my words are part of the exhibition SHAC & CO.
The exhibition, involving SHAC members collaborating with others artists, in on show at the Mercure Ballarat Hotel and Convention Centre, Main Road, Golden Point, from 20 June to 31 July 2022. Free entry. The official launch is on 23 June at 6.30pm. I can’t wait to see what my fellow artists have cooked up!