Simon Cowling. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Such was the convincing sway of Simon Cowling's images that Gunyulgup Galleries has broken a 15-year photography drought to hang his work on its walls.

It's not hard to see why. Cowling's photograph's take on a painterly quality that suggest the abstractive compositional qualities of Mondrian and the intense realism of Jeffrey Smart, Chuck Close and Richard Estes.

Cowling has long admired realist painters because their work "always seem so much more photographic than photographs", he says.

"There is an edginess to their images that turn the ordinary into the surreal. I have been working towards this super-real feeling in my photographs for a while now, as it suits the subjects that attract me most: odd juxtapositions, unreal perspectives, urban landscapes, architecture, quirky signage.

"The colour fields, shapes, graphics and absurdities that I like to record are made all the more surreal by the realism that high- resolution digital photography can provide."

An inveterate traveller, Cowling returned to his first love of fine-art photography more than a decade ago after nearly 40 years working in advertising, design and media.

His images on show at Gunyulgup were taken in Canada, New York and WA.

"Most of my pictures have some quirk in them. There are some bits and pieces that border on the ridiculous," he says, citing a satellite dish disguised as a Martian spaceship on the roof of the Starlite Diner in Alberta, Canada.

Nothing has been added or subtracted to the images, apart from subtle tonal and colour enhancement, he says.

Cowling says he has always been intrigued by how the photographed image always looked a little different to what he thought he had been looking at through the lens.

"With the advent of digital photography and the increasing ability of modern cameras to resolve colours and details, the results we can now obtain go far beyond the detail the human eye perceives," he says.

He works hard to ensure every image is entirely in sharp focus and dominated by straight horizontal and vertical lines, giving them a slightly unreal look.

Cowling has designed and run courses for the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney and founded SHOOT Photography Workshops, Perth's first independent photography school. He will shortly be running courses at Fremantle Art Centre.

He has works in the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of WA, the Kerry Stokes Collection and other private collections.

The West Australian

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