Daren Siwes


Last Thursday night (September 2011) we were very fortunate to have Daren Siwes present a talk on his art-photography.  The above image, a cropped back highlight from one of Daren’s images is borrowed from the Turner Gallery webpage.  http://www.turnergalleries.com.au/church_gallery/4exhibit_siwes.php  Due to copy write and contractual agreements with the gallery he is unable to share any further images with camera clips. .However if you search on google you can find a number of his works including a collection in the Turner galleries and another in the Greenway gallery as well as pieces in the National Gallery of Australia.

The biography at the Turner Gallery introduces Daren as follows;

“Darren is a young Aboriginal artist based in Adelaide whose photographic work is becoming highly sought after by public and private collectors alike. He has become well known for his nocturnal images of ethereal figures standing in recognisable locations around Adelaide, the UK and now Perth. These ghostly figures, often of Darren and his wife, are created using a method of time-lapse photography. The resulting eerily lit photographs are loaded with meaning, often referencing issues of identity – personal, historical and cultural. A well-dressed Aboriginal man stands in front of a church, a memorial, or a historic building, signifying his integration into a white community and his detachment and alienation from it. “

Darren stated early in the evening that he was going to speak mainly about the technical aspects of his work, about his exploration of the photographic medium.  He had studied fine arts at Oxford and saw himself primarily as a painter who takes photographs.  He explained that most of his work is done on a medium format camera with a single exposure, often without light metering.  The works are mostly taken outdoors at night, with architectural elements and people.  Darren described spending over an hour of setting up a single shot.  Working at night with artificial lighting he gains masterful control of the various elements of his carefully constructed compositions.  He described building light towers with banks of bright magnesium lights.  He might also use traditional flood lighting with a more yellow colour cast.  In his early work his models remain stationary for carefully timed intervals in order to render them semi transparent like ghosts or wraiths.

He relies heavily on classical composition, using the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence.  He has at times imitated the style of the Baroque painters Caravaggio and Leonardo Davinci, however throwing reference to contemporary artists like Jeffrey Smart..  However his themes are far from traditional.  He explores his identity as an aboriginal Australian with great humour and insight.

One of my favourite series of images has a family of white early Australians in period costume faced with the dilemma of their kids having brown faces.  A doctor offers the brown faced kids white milk to render a placebo cure (which he spells placeabo).  Although he did not speak on the ideology of his work, it was clear that there were many layers of meaning in every image.

The images are printed to a size 90 by 120cms in limited batches for exhibition and sale.  He described in detail the care he takes in every aspect of the process from composition, camera, film, handling lens flare, processing, selection of papers, printing, mounting and displaying his works.  When asked in question time, Darren said that he was also influenced by the photographic works of Tracey Mophett and Cindy Scheuermann.

It would certainly be a disappointment if you missed the evening, Darren spoken with a quiet passion and a depth of experience.  Few walked away unaffected by his vision.

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