Thursday, April 8, 2010



Welcome to the gallery this evening and we appreciate your support of the second solo exhibition at the gallery by artist Stuart Spence.

The first thing you will notice for those who came along last year is there is no Tim Freedman or Peter O’Doherty performing tonight, nor are there any MP3 players accompanying the images with a soundtrack.

It is purely and simply the artwork of Stuart Spence. The images stand proud and tall all by themselves, ready to judged on their own merit, which in my opinion consolidates Stuart as an artist rather than a photographer.

When you read or listen to Stuart talk about his work there are many analogies to music. Like Stuart, the explosion of music that occurred around 1977 to 1982/84 informed me. It was a time of enormous energy coming from the street and with it came an independent ‘do it yourself’ attitude.

What was important was the attitude, the passion. What was swept aside was the obsession with technical perfection, the overproduced, over embellished self-congratulatory rock genre that dominated the musical landscape at the time.

I think Stuart has reinvigorated for himself that ‘do it yourself’ stance with this show.

Every image has that Ramones ‘1,2,3,4’ feel to it. It is a desire to capture the moment, to consolidate a mood or potential narrative in a single frame. It isn’t forced or pushed; there is a sombre reflective nature to them. They are fleeting and could be gone with a single gush of wind.

One of our guests earlier tonight remarked in good humour that the photos are all out of focus. Quick off the mark his son fired back, ‘you’re so 20th century”.

Indeed, the art of making a photograph has changed dramatically in the last decade. Digital technology has dropped one industry of image making and replaced it with another that is based on manipulation and speed.

What I like about Stuart’s work is he messes with all of that.

The breaking up of the pixilation is deliberate and an attempt to merge form, shape, colour. It suggests a painter’s eye capturing the essence rather than a professional photographer’s desire for crisp detail.

He often describes his approach to his work as strumming on a guitar and ‘jamming’, mucking around. Sitting around and searching for riffs and melodies through the process of doing it. From the doing, something happens.

It shows the maturity of Stuart as an artist to be able to let go of all his maturity and depth of photographic knowledge.

He doesn’t force the issue but he is always ready to record that glance just out of reach.

It is about being wise enough to let the serendipitous moment occur.

The ease in which he constructs and frames the shot comes from years of practice and the subsequent cropping or colour shifts enhance rather than butcher the initial click.

It is refreshing to see a series of photographic images talk about serendipity rather than forced conceptual simulacra. We are constantly fed in the visual arts yet another wave of self referenced ‘cultural studied’ digital imagery which yet again falls flat back into its own two dimensional plane.

This exhibition, ‘What Gives’, is different to that. It is a series of images produced by a maturing artist who has the history and skill to let the images breath…and sing! So Stuart, congratulations from all of us on the exhibition.

In Waves, 2005, 532mm x 856mm
Edition 1 of 8, Kodak Supra Endura archival paper