This Andrew Ross exhibition, perhaps even more than his previous ones (he’s been exhibiting at Photospace Gallery at least annually since early 1999) demands close scrutiny of the photographs, and enough time in hand for the viewer to really appreciate them. Each image has its own story to tell, and it doesn’t rely on impact to deliver that story in 1.5 seconds the way a newspaper or magazine photo might. These images are quieter, less nagging, but ultimately very rewarding if you’re prepared to look into them.
For instance, Mantel piece arrangement (a painting by Lionel Terry), 6 Elder St, Dunedin, 19/7/2010 raises the question of how the painting by the infamous murderer came to be in Dunedin at all. In 1905, Terry murdered a randomly-chosen Chinese man in Wellington’s Haining St, in order to draw attention to his own racist views on immigration.
But the main story of this exhibition is of spaces in which artists of various kinds work, and how those personally-arranged environments were set up over time to operate for the individual. Some are purpose-built professional environments, such as Studio 9 at Avalon TV studios, Lower Hutt – now abandoned by Television New Zealand. Or the old Radio Active rooms in Victoria St, photographed just prior to the station’s move to new premises in Ghuznee St.
As with other interiors photographed for this exhibition, sometimes the act of photography is one of the last creative acts to take place in the room, as it is soon to be abandoned, its resident/s either being forced out, moving on for other reasons, or just passing on. One front room features a coffin in the process of construction, its ever-practical Kiwi owner taking steps for his future demise.
And what exactly is in the hundred-plus boxes marked “Philips Telecommunications” stacked in the back room of a defunct church in Newtown?
Then there is the letter box at the Rita Angus Cottage, which was hand-painted for Rita by fellow artist Tony Fomison. Strangely, there is a ghostly swirl emanating from the letter box, going out to the right. Ross has no idea how this blurred image came to be in the photograph, and he’s generally very attentive to these matters. Could it be the spiritual presence of Angus or Fomison finding its way into the photographic image?
Each photograph is lovingly made, taking around a day or two of the photographer’s time; to plan things, take the photograph, hand-develop the 8”x10” sheet film negative, make a contact print and then apply the selenium and gold toning processes. Andrew Ross, typically practical, also made his own picture frames from scratch.
Studios and other interiors – photographs by Andrew Ross – shows at Photospace Gallery, 1st floor, 37 Courtenay Place, Wellington, from the 4th to the 26th of October, 2013.
Photography Matters II