This year’s exhibition class from the Centre for Creative Photography is calling its show Prism and is up at Adelaide’s National Wine Centre until 23 May 2021.

Note: I teach at the CCP and have had some of these artists in my classes.

The show is spread across two floors at the wine centre, along a couple of corridors that are nicely wide enough to give the pictures some good space. The ground level pictures start the experience well, with three series about landscapes and natural materials sitting well together.

Geoff Borg’s ‘Delameria’ is a collection of triptychs that each take elements like rock or water and frame them tightly into narrow horizontal strips so that all we see are abstract patterns with little clue about their scale. They’re in black-and-white, which emphasises their abstractness. Are some of these aerial photos? Close-ups? It’s hard to tell. It’s also hard to be sure what the materials are. Borg has chosen what I think are Latin names for each triptych (Terrae – earth?, flumina – river?), creating just a hint of categorisation but eludes a clear taxonomy (to me, anyway). Enjoy these images as patterns and textures, but they are open more consideration. Are some of these materials connected across as well as within each triptych? Does the river flow across the rock? These pictures left me thinking about materials I thought were familiar. The ambiguity and complexity bears looking at more closely, and I kept coming back to them.

Right next to ‘Delameria’, Paul Watson’s ‘Travels through Iceland’ show us rock and water and ice at a more recognisable scale. These are large, gorgeous colour prints that evoke a sense of space and vastness. There’s a lovely image of a church with black walls and white window frames, sitting on the edge of some water that mirrors the sky, but darkly. Some of the other pictures are just ice and rock with no signs of a human landscape; they take us to the shoreline to almost feel the wind and the cold green air. The slow shutter on some of these turns waves into foggy carpets that add a sense of space and allow the sharply rendered ice boulders to almost sparkle. I really want to be on this beach.

The third landscape series, Thomas Gloyn’s ‘Infinity at the Other St Kilda’ is closer to home but still vivid. Marshy wetlands that are flat and overcast with a distant port facility on the horizon reminding us of the proximity of this open space with industrial activity. Boardwalks zigzagging through the gloom of closed-in foliage. Inviting but walk through slowly. There’s one of a solitary tree among a cluster of roots, some rocks in the foreground, and a strip of green, layered just under the sea horizon. There’s sense of mystery in these quiet images. The palette is restricted but quite vivid. The marsh, the seawater, the thick hedge, the boardwalk – all the same general location. How do they connect? How do they form parts of the same landscape? How much do they impinge on the urban, and vice-versa? I’ve never been to St Kilda and now I have to go, my view sharpened by these observations.

Upstairs, the tone becomes more sculptural. Jiri Bruderhans looks at public sculpture, some of it temporary, in a sculpture by the sea festival, some of it more permanent work that’s part of the city landscape. The black-and-white pictures put the sculptures in the foreground, with the beach or city mall as context. They remind me a bit of Todd Papageorge’s Central Park pictures from the 70s. One of the new Runde Mall pigeon is whimsical: a shot looking down, of its belly and feet, with just the legs of a couple of people in the frame. I’m just waiting for the pigeon to peck some food scraps off the ground. In another picture a giant hand emerges from the sand and there’s a child playing in it. It’s like someone manifested a playful dream in bright black-and-white, and Bruderhans was there to see it too.

John King’s architecture photos mix Adelaide houses with European and American buildings, some of them well-known, like the Walt Disney concert hall in Los Angeles designed by Frank Gehry. King’s suggesting we give less-grand locations close to us as much attention as the famous European ones. He’s interested in ‘how built structures sculpt the space that they enclose, and how they are a part of the human world’, and he does that nicely in a couple of ways. He frames the buildings as part of their environment, and especially with two of the Adelaide houses, by being shot at dusk, the pictures reveal the lit interiors that give a hint of what they are like inside. I feel like I’m standing outside with a fresh beer, taking in the trees and sky around, about to wander, slowly, into the sculpture.

Alifiya Haidermota’s ‘Fruit Splash’ is sculptural in a different way. Studio images of fruit suspended in globs of water, frozen with flash that renders all the elements impossibly suspended together in the air. I can only imagine the accumulating mess on the studio floor, but what’s in the frame is sharp and colourful and playful. It’s like Fruit Ninja meets Harold Edgerton. Freezing the elements in this way, the sculpture is vividly in these pictures, made up of fruit and water and light. Slices of fruit in slices of time.

You can hear from the six artists of Prism talking with Paul Atkins on his Atkins labcast podcast. There will also be a talks by each of the artists at the wine centre every Saturday at 11am until the show closes.

(Updated 9 May 2021)