Every Easter my family would pack our stinky Kombi full of Care Bears and Cabbage Patch dolls and make the yearly pilgrimage down south to camp beneath a canopy of trees. While the ubiquitous family photos contain ample comedic relief - bathing in garbage bins was de rigueur, apparently - what strikes me is the internal jolt I experience upon viewing the surrounding landscape. There’s something about them trees that sets my synapses aflutter.
Marlaina Read hopes to elicit exactly this response from her upcoming exhibition Do you have a recurring dreamspace? Can you describe it to me? Encompassing the breadth of work undertaken for her Masters of Fine Art, Read explores the sensations of pause and delay in viewing still images and the mnemonic possibilities created by examining landscapes. We sat down with Marlaina on the eve of her solo exhibition to find out what makes this Sydney based photographer tick.
Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to photography?
I studied photography in high school but I think my passion was really ignited when my father gave me a book of photographs by the American master Weegee. His photos are so dark and visceral and while the style is a bit different to mine - he was a street/crime photographer - there was something so compelling in the medium. I think that's when I was first hooked. After high school I studied art at Sydney University. Initially I was thinking I might like digital imaging but spending time in the colour darkrooms, manipulating the light and the chemicals with my hands and watching the images emerge; I knew photography was for me.
When did you first discover your passion for art and photography?
I have always been very creative and imaginative, even as a small child. My primary school had a strong emphasis on creative arts, dance, music, and visual arts - even gardening. We were taught to think laterally and be expressive. I was never a big painter, but I liked to make things with my hands: costumes, craft, fairy gardens. In high school and university I was lucky to have very inspiring strong women as mentors and teachers and this really helped me to learn more and push my art further.
Where do you turn for creative inspiration?
Nature is my number one inspiration but I’m also interested in how people interact with nature. I love house building, walking, path making and other interactions we have with our natural landscape. I spend a lot of time reading art magazines and art blogs, visiting websites and seeing what other people are making. I am constantly inspired and amazed. Travel is also a big interaction - I like getting outside my comfort zone and meeting new people.
Which other photographers or other creative people do you admire?
I love modern German photographers like Adam Fuss and Candida Hoffer as well as artist friends from Canada, Australia and the UK. Recently I'm loving the video works of Tacita Dean - her work The Green Ray is so beautiful and eerie. I am also very interested in female African photographers.
What would be your dream creative project?
To build a life-size house out in the wilderness or to create a forest indoors using lasers and a sound scape.
What can audiences expect from your upcoming exhibition?
I am an avid fan of landscapes so you can expect a lot of trees and earth, but perhaps in some unexpected presentations. I like to play with scale and colour - to create something a little otherworldly. Expect big dreamy landscapes and lush colours. I also take all my photographs using a medium format film camera and really enjoy the traditional processes.
What was the inspiration for Do you have a reoccurring dreamspace? Can you describe it to me? and what in particular ties you to this body of work?
Mostly I am inspired by the act of walking and being present in a landscape. I am also a real dreamer - I can stare at a tree or the ocean and just bliss out. While a lot of the initial photo studies for this work were taken in Australia, most of the final images come from Germany, Canada and the USA. There were a lot of natural environments there that I have never encountered before - deserts, pine forests, snow ... and being there, walking though them, was in some way very mystical and unnerving. In a way the landscape helped me to be still, to slow my movements and thought and this kind of slowness is evident in the pictures. They are almost like film stills - small moments from dreams or the imagination - starting points to a bigger story.
How would you like audiences to respond to your exhibition? What would you like them to take away?
I am hoping that they will be able to have 'little moments'. I really love when a person lingers in front of an image, maybe contemplates something in the image or an idea that is conjured up. I hope that being in front of some of the images may be powerful in triggering a memory - knowing that images of a place can give a sense of déjà vu, like a smell or a sound. To take away.... maybe a sense of having seen something new and beautiful.
Do you have a recurring dream space? Can you describe it to me? opens tomorrow night 5-7:30pm @ Kudos Gallery, 6 Napier St Paddington and continues to April 2.
words: Kylie Malone