Pantu (Lake Amadeus), Northern Territory.
A small exhibition with images by John Gollings AM is profoundly thought-provoking, extraordinarily beautiful and an event not to be missed.
As a photographer, John Gollings AM is an icon. A legend within that world, Gollings has extensively documented the built environment, the landscape of Australia, and people and places around the globe over the many years of his incredible career.
Gollings never stands still and is busier than ever travelling and working. He is also a mentor and has supported many of Australia’s architectural photographers to succeed and become the best in the profession. However, it is as a custodian of the architectural image where Golllings really makes his mark. Since 1967, Gollings has been compiling an incredible archive that is unsurpassed in size and depth and is still documenting the built form in Australia today.
In his latest exhibition at The Lennox Building in Richmond, Victoria, Exploring Australia 1984 – 2020, presents a selection of images with a subject that is close to Gollings’ heart. The photographs feature the landscape of Australia, its terrain and the colours of the country, all taken from the air – and the result is breathtaking. While most of us only experience the land at ground level, Gollings’ aerial images show another world where ubiquitous forms are translated into artistic masterpieces.
Gollings has been at the forefront of aerial photography from the beginning of his career and regularly takes to the sky in a helicopter, camera at the ready to capture the country below. The photographs in this exhibition are singular in every respect and display the destruction of the environment by mining companies. The images of the immense waste that occurs from mining is immeasurable, to say the least, and even more surprising when viewed from the air.
Gollings has continued to find ironies in his ongoing aerial study of the Australian landscape with climate change providing grist to the ongoing mill. Prophetically, Gollings has also been documenting the aftermath of bushfires since 1984, finding a compelling beauty in the decimated landscapes.
While the subject matter of Exploring Australia 1984 – 2020 is difficult and thought-provoking, the images all display a poignant beauty that often resemble the results of an artist’s brush rather than a photographer’s lens. The super pits in Kalgoorlie, and the overburdens at Mount Newman and Prominent Hill Mine, are spectacular for their subject matter, context, forms and colours. As well as the scars on the landscape, they show just how devastating mining has been on the land.
Of note is a magnificent image of Lake Torrens (feature image, above, and below). The photograph shows pollution that runs off and finds its way into the lake. As an abstract painting it would be special but as a photograph of a landscape it is extraordinary, albeit in terms of the power of destruction.
This is a small and beautifully curated exhibition from the work of a master. Through his images, John Gollings AM provides us with visions to ponder and perspectives to digest that then become art that illuminates.
The exhibition is open throughout January but by appointment only. It’s worth making the call and organising a time to see Exploring Australia 1984 – 2020 in the flesh and to experience the extraordinary power of the Australian landscape as seen through the remarkable lens of John Gollings AM.
John Gollings AM is a member of the 2024 INDE.Awards jury.