A Conversation with Ann Shelton
“A selection of Wellington artist Ann Shelton’s “prolific practice has been brought together in her review exhibition, Dark Matter, at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, which opened on 26 November 2016 and continues through to 17 April 2017,” as reported by Casey Carsel and Laura Thompson for Ocula.
The exhibition features artwork from Shelton’s series ‘Redeye‘ (1997) – a “photographic explorations of Shelton’s social scene”, ‘in a forest’ (2005-ongoing), ‘Public Places’ (2001-03) and ‘jane says’ (2015-ongoing).
In her most recent series ‘jane says’, Shelton “presents photographs of rich botanical arrangements based around her research into plants’ historical uses for both fertility and birth control.” According to the article it “is one of the few instances in Shelton’s career of the photograph not being of an existing scene, and is perhaps the most designed and staged manifestations of this choice.”
Shelton, who is associate professor in photography at Massey University, Wellington and chairperson of Enjoy Public Art Gallery, discussed Dark Matter in an interview with Carsel and Thompson.
When asked about the title of her exhibition Shelton said:
“Dark matter is the tangible influence of invisible forces: the material out there in the universe that affects us but remains invisible to our eyes. My photographs speak of the influence of invisible forces—of narratives, events, and people. While the works are often empty of people, aside from in my early work, they are full of content.”
She said her “images address the ‘dark matter’ of our history.” “Often that’s a New Zealand history; but equally as often it’s a history that reaches out globally and has global resonance.”
“At Auckland Art Gallery, ‘jane says’ will be accompanied by _The physical garden _ (2015-ongoing): a free performance held on various dates throughout the exhibition.” In The physical garden “two young women perform a series of quotes surrounding the historical research that has informed ‘jane says’”.
When asked about The physical garden, Shelton explained:
“Historically, the physical garden was a precursor to the botanic garden. Sponsored by wealthy medical doctors, the physical garden was a garden of plants for use in medicine. The images in ‘jane says’ are a kind of photographic garden of these medical plants. The works link photography and botany, and the impulse to record specimens and their uses from around the globe.”
“The physical garden performance allows me to present to a viewer all of those swirling pieces of content; all the background research that a photograph cannot speak.”
To read more about her art series and her exhibition please click here.
Article Source: Ocula, Casey Carsel & Laura Thompson, March 3, 2017
Image Source: Auckland Art Gallery