Max Milne, Oct 2010

Max Milne, Every moment is

SJS Gallery, Fitzroy, October 26 – November 6, 2010

‘Landscapes and crowd scenes; chaos and silence’ is the subtitle of Milne’s series of large photographs and it rather succinctly outlines the basic tenet of the works. As with all decent art though, a title will never fully encapsulate the totality of meaning. And so it is with this series, where even just a cursory glance gives an indication that the images carry with them a sort of gravitational weight and depth. The sort of imagery that somehow manages to slow time and amplify presence. The presence of both the content in the image and the presence of the observer of the image. Photography is particularly suited to elicit this type of sensory engagement with its capacity to freeze moments. As easy at it may seem to achieve, it is however, rather rarely successful. Most photographers will happily confess that many shots are taken to attain that one special image. Every moment is offers itself as such a collection of these special moments of presence.

Categorised informally into three groupings of landscape, figurative and nature images, it is this notion of the special moment, an almost prescient significance, that imbues the works with its interrelated consistency. The artist declares the notion of presence to be the guiding motivation for the work in his exhibition statement and it is this consistency of concept that generates a powerfully collective magnetism across the works.

The landscape images feature a lone mountain resting heavily on a horizon, its reflection rippling on a clear and highly polished sea; a solitary tree on a grassy hilltop, a diagonal path cut across its surface; and a misty beach at dusk or dawn, along which a few miniscule human figures are dwarfed by the ocean on one side and the rising hills above the sand on the other. Each scene is enveloped in a sense of impending atmospheric change – overcast and misty. The very ions of the air seem charged with energy. Human presence is a small intrusion into the grander stature of nature but rather than any traditional notion of the sublime, with its dual evocation of delight and fear in the face of awe, these works speak more of a duality of loneliness and embrace. The solitude of the human extracted from nature, implied where either the human presence is only barely registered or its absence is obvious, but also the solitude of nature itself, existing freely of our relation to it, but somehow waiting for our impact.

The figurative works are group portraits, two of party scenes and one of what appears to be a father and daughter. All images are of dancing and all images have a strong sense of weightlessness. Dancers are captured mid-movement, as if mid-flight. A father airborne in the front yard with his daughter, a boy reaching languidly toward the heavens at party, a circle of friends frolicking like the three graces. Fun, freedom, release and spiritual ascent are strongly evoked from not only the central characters in each work, but from the sense of community in the relationships of the other figures. These are groups, sharing together and the viewer becomes both voyeur and participant in this arrangement.

The third set of images is a set of two photographs of birds. One of a swirling flock of birds above a body of water, the other a truly wonderful capture of a bird alighting from a fern frond. This latter image echoes the evocations of the figurative works, freedom, spiritual ascent and even, hope – which is far less corny in actuality than in this description. The image of the flock of birds also resonates with the figurative works in its connotations of community, group dynamics and charged interactive energies. Both photographs are taken in mist, an atmospheric condition of such presence it too is a character in the scene. This also aids to tie the images back to the landscape works and bring the entire body of images together in consistency.

A truly evocative series of photographs.

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