15 January - 6 March, 2022
Wednesday - Friday, 10am – 5pm
Saturday - Sunday, 12pm - 5pm
UNSW Galleries: Corner of Oxford Street and Greens Road Paddongton, NSW
Izabela Pluta is a Polish-born Australian artist who interrogates the function of photographic images by fragmenting and reconfiguring materials that are both photographed and found. Recent works have used outdated atlases and pictorial dictionaries to reconsider navigation and land demarcation systems, creating works that query the concept of territory and explore deep time. Pluta has also drawn on experiences of deep-sea diving, incorporating imagery from underwater rock formations, and used camera-less printing processes to echo the shape of land and ocean and create invented depths on photographic paper.
The German term nihilartikel describes intentional errors or fictitious entries in reference works such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and directories, made to identify copies. For Pluta, the idea that the term itself could be a hoax and that fictional items might reside in a volume of perceived knowledge is a way of grappling with concepts of authenticity, knowledge-making, photographic representation and the mediation of scientific artefacts through art. Pluta's engagement with specific sites and collected ephemera tries to undermine the very nature of such knowledge structures and image-making driven by pursuits to understand phenomena and natural forces.
At the centre of this exhibition is the installation Variable depth, shallow water 2021 that visits the debris of the underwater limestone rock formation known as The Azure Window. Pluta was drawn to this former sea arch that was once an impressive expression of geological time. The work incorporates handmade contact negatives of unhinged atlases, and an object recast from a faux artefact found in the depths of where the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea meet. An accompanying set of photographs depict subterranean passages and translate visual material sourced from out-of-date atlases and dictionaries of physical and human geography, conflating languages of photography and the nuances they embody as physical objects.
The exhibition also presents recent works that rupture and unsettle photographic materials, printing processes and strategies for viewing. Pluta moves between making silver gelatin prints, digital colour photographs, large scale photocopies and using early photographic techniques such as cyanotype, together with aluminium surfaces, structures to stage disorienting encounters with pictures. This pluralistic approach to photography offers a new dialogue with pictorial representation that speaks to present-day questions about impermanence and personal narratives of place.
Curator: José Da Silva
The exhibition travels to Watt Space at the University of Newcastle from 14 September – 5 November 2022. Components are also presented in ‘Blue Assembly: Oceanic Thinking’ at The University of Queensland Art Museum from 9 February – 25 June 2022. ‘Variable depth, shallow water’ 2021 was first presented at Spazju Kreattiv, Malta, from 5 March – 11 April 2021, curated by Nicole Bearman and Francesca Mangion.