Close 

Online Catalogue

Ian Skinner and Karen Coombes

Ian Skinner, Macrozamia_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 48 x 33 cm

Karen Coombes, Semblance 01, 2019, fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm

Close

Essay by Jennifer Coombes, 2020

The camera freezes a moment in time and in Close, Ian Skinner and Karen Coombes’ collaborative exhibition, that moment of compressed time allows us to respond to an intimate view of the natural world. Close also showcases the process of two photographers uniting their separate creative practices to create a wider view for the audience of what they captured through their lenses.

Close emerged out of Ian and Karen’s shared engagement with nature and creating observational photography. Their images set out to capture the essential nature and materiality of their subjects and I particularly found their use of macro composition and abstraction an engaging visual hook into this world. Their decision to shoot in black and white allows us to focus on the patterns and textures; removing colour also created a more unified look to their works. Ian reflected ‘once you remove colour the photographs become very much about texture, composition and lighting in its purest form’. The absence of colour also really influenced their subject selection – both were drawn to structure and composition and light. 

The exhibition comprises 47 black and white images arranged in groups. Karen’s are under titles ‘lineation’, ‘whorl’, ‘semblance’, ‘spherule’ and ‘redolent’. Lineation is a set of seven images of trees, with segments of leaf, twig, berry and spiderwebs taken in close focus, filling the frame. The depth of field is limited to draw our attention to fine-grained details – the patterns, shapes and angles of tree branches, the way they intersect and arc through space in sharp relief against the muted pallet of the background. My favourite of this series shows the delicate loop of a spider’s web twisting around several twigs, which sweep in a diagonal line across the image.

 

While Lineation is about pattern and space, Redolent fills the viewer’s eyes with whorls and curls and twists of a single flower at close range, forcing you to examine its symmetry and its myriad parts. The intricacies of the physical composition of petals are magnified in all their delineations, shadows and dark whorls. You start to lose all sense of looking at a flower and your gaze starts tracing a pathway of intersecting shapes. I came away convinced that Karen finds beauty away from panoramic landscape views, instead turning her camera towards flowers and trees and then further inward to observe and explore their patterns and minutiae.

The thematic threads of macro texture and light presented can also be found in Ian’s interrogation of a fern frond in his Macrozamia series of four images. Macrozamias are a species of cycad that can normally grow up to two metres above their trunk. Here, in Ian’s series we focus on the blurred and softened outline of a single frond, filling the entire frame with streaks of light that transform the physical form into something more abstract. By contrast, the second image of the macrozamia leaf is very sharp and structural – my eyes kept returning to the bands of lighter spaces between the individual pinnae. The remaining two photographs in this series appear to be moving the cycad back from a more geometric and patterned world into a natural and organic one.

Both photographers have distinct elements illustrating their individual approaches. Ian’s practice of working with a greater depth of field is demonstrated in several images of sky and sea. His visits to the New South Wales south coast produced a number of photographs included in the exhibition. These bring a visual break from the almost microscopic scrutiny given to sand and rocks and leaves. His shot of a small fragment of the beach is like a vignette. The composition allows the viewer to contemplate the sunlit stretch of sand and the contrast of the white foam, with the sense of the vast ocean and expansive land just out of sight and beyond the frame. While the focus is narrow, you can easily imagine the wider world beyond.

 

Close was originally to be hung in the Huw Davies Gallery at PhotoAccess. But due to the social restrictions now in place with COVID-19, it’s being presented as an online exhibition. Digital delivery is a very different vehicle of course. Each platform has unique qualities and the differences in presentation and aesthetic between digital and physical spaces will affect how viewers respond to these images. Digital and physical worlds offer different types of experiences of the same world. The opportunities offered here allow for a closer and visceral examination of the content and an opportunity to reflect on the aims of both photographers – to take time to indulge in an intimate study, a close analysis of parts, identifying the different ways they work and finally the patience to take a long, slow look at what is being revealed.

Jennifer Coombes is a PhD student with the Research School of the Humanities  and the Arts at the ANU.  She is studying the impact of collaborative practices on photography exhibitions displayed by the Commonwealth cultural institutions.  Previously she has worked as a curator at the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian War Memorial and the National Library.

Find a review of this exhibition by Brian Rope on the website of the Canberra Critics Circle

 Ian Skinner and Karen Coombes 

Karen and Ian share a love of spontaneous, observational photography, inspired by natural subjects. They are fascinated with detail, texture, movement, light and form, and chose a monochrome presentation in Close to explore and contrast these qualities.

Artworks

  1. Ian Skinner, Macrozamia_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 48 x 33 cm,  Open ,$150 

  2. Ian Skinner, Macrozamia_02, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  3. Ian Skinner, Macrozamia_03, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  48 x 33 cm,  Open, $150 

  4. Ian Skinner, Macrozamia (braken)_04, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 48 x 33 cm,  Open, $150 

  5. Karen Coombes, Semblance 01, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  6. Karen Coombes, Semblance 02, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  7. Karen Coombes, Semblance 03, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  8. Ian Skinner, Rocks_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  9. Ian Skinner, Rocks_02, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  10. Ian Skinner, Rocks_03, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  11. Ian Skinner, Rocks_04, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  12. Ian Skinner, Rocks_05, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  13. Karen Coombes, Spherule 01, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  14. Karen Coombes, Spherule 02, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  15. Karen Coombes, Spherule 03, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  16. Karen Coombes, Spherule 04, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  17. Karen Coombes, Spherule 05, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  18. Ian Skinner, Sand_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 48 x 33 cm,  Open, $150 

  19. Ian Skinner, Sand_02, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print, 48 x 33 cm,  Open, $150 

  20. Ian Skinner, Sand_03, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  21. Karen Coombes, Redolent 01, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  22. Karen Coombes, Redolent 02, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  23. Karen Coombes, Redolent 03, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  24. Karen Coombes, Redolent 04, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  25. Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  26. Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_02, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  27. Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_03, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  28. Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_04, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  29. Ian Skinner, Rocks & Maculata_05, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  30. Karen Coombes, Lineation 01, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  31. Karen Coombes, Lineation 02, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  32. Karen Coombes, Lineation 03, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  33. Karen Coombes, Lineation 04, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  34. Karen Coombes, Lineation 05, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  35. Karen Coombes, Lineation 06, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 48cm, Open, $150

  36. Karen Coombes, Lineation 07, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  37. Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_01, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  48 x 33 cm,  Open, $150 

  38. Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_02, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  39. Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_03, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  40. Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_04, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  41. Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_05, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  42. Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_06, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  43. Ian Skinner, Plant & Sand_07, 2019, Matt fine art archival inkjet print,  33 x 48 cm,  Open, $150 

  44. Karen Coombes, Whorl 01, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  45. Karen Coombes, Whorl 02, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 33cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  46. Karen Coombes, Whorl 03, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm, Open, $150

  47. Karen Coombes, Whorl 04, 2019, Fine art archival inkjet print, 48cm x 33cm, Open, $150