For city folk, Shark Bay might be one of those distant, desirable locations that lives in the mind as a cliche of Australia, with expansive rocky coastline, crystalline waters, low-lying bush land and dusty red earth.

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Shark Bay s aerial wonders
Tony Hewitt’s Salt Lake.

VISUAL ARTS

2016 — Shark Bay — Inscription

Linton and Kay Galleries, Perth

REVIEW: LAETITIA WILSON

For city folk, Shark Bay might be one of those distant, desirable locations that lives in the mind as a cliche of Australia, with expansive rocky coastline, crystalline waters, low-lying bush land and dusty red earth.

These elements are intensified when seen from above - the view presented in a series of aerial photographs by the Ninety Degrees Five Collective in this exhibition.

Tony Hewitt, Peter Eastway, Les Walkling, Christian Fletcher and Michael Fletcher have developed a collective reputation for travelling through and photographing the spectacular WA landscape.

This series is the beginning of a three-year project photographing the land and sea of the Shark Bay area to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the landing there by Dirk Hartog in 1616.

Humanity has not always been spoilt with such aerial visions and although commonplace these days they never cease to fascinate as the mind bends to make sense of the flattened forms and the unfamiliar perspective.

What on the ground is so atmospherically intense and immediate in its detail is condensed into minute specks of a much larger picture plane from above.

Pattern is a big theme for these photographers - tidal patterns, lake patterns and sand patterns. Indeed many of the photographs appear abstract because of their pattern and geometry.

Tidal Patterns, Petit Point by Christian Fletcher is like an Aboriginal depiction of the land, with red ochre dotted with green and a sinewy green line dividing the picture plane like some ancestral being.

If this was a painting show, it would be described as highly gestural with close attention to colour and light, thick brush strokes, washes of colour, attention to textural detail and geometric delineation. Many of the photographs trade on a painterly look; it is like brushstrokes are literally swished across the earth by a giant hand to form the organic texturing of the land and sea. A key example of this is Fletcher's Sand Patterns.

Throughout the photographs the colours are particularly notable, with azure blues, dreamy turquoise, dramatic reds, foamy whites and high contrasts seducing the gaze.

Useless Loop Set by Peter Eastway captures the golden red light of the sun as it hits what appears to be sand curved dramatically, dragon-like and brushed by the wind. This form sits in high relief to the surrounding deep grey blues.

A degree of homogeneity characterises the works, whether it is the drama of the meeting of land and sea, their relative textural noise, murky seascapes, gaping salt lakes, the slicing of salt lakes by roads or the dance of the light.

All the works are spectacular, tight compositions. Most are intense in colour and are, of course, thematically unified but some are framed and composed to look abstract while others more clearly represent familiar organic forms.

It will be interesting to see where this project heads as it develops and if particular elements of the land are covered in greater depth relative to the different photographers.

In light of the present series it is worth considering how Shark Bay as a geographical space has altered over 400 years since colonial discovery, how climatic and industrial forces have shaped it to make it what it is today.

2016 — Shark Bay — Inscription runs until December 24.