The Rigid and the Slack: Photographic Process in the Pursuit of Familial Intimacy uses conditions of the photographic process, from the alchemical to Barthes’s ‘violence of capturing’ to pursue intimacy in familial relations - contained, measured and contingent upon ‘the everyday’ - to examine how a body of artwork may bridge the distancing paradox inherent in the photographic process to pull the subject close.
In many ways the term 'Nature' has become a distant, often paradoxical concept. On the one hand it can represent an abstract desire to connect with the sublime. On the other, it signifies simply a material product or resource. At worse, indifference reduces it to a dumping ground for waste.
In a week-long residency at Monash University’s Gippsland Centre for Art and Design, Hayes collaborated with students, staff and locals in a series of photographic shoots taken en plein air. Meanings and metaphors pile up in these photographs, which reiterate a myriad of European landscape traditions along with Australia’s own history of representation after colonisation. They provoke smiles of recognition of an art historical roll-call of artists and pictorial conventions – Poussin’s ordered stage, Buvelot’s borrowed paysage intime, the green-grey poetry of late Corot and Nolan’s modernist planes …
With their aesthetic combination of lyricism, urban vacancy and private sublimity, the pictures achieve a metaphoric value beyond the spectacle. They express the inner majesty of people outside the mainstream, so to speak, the couples and individuals who contemplate a rapport with new nature and probably reflect on the marvel that the spot remains.
Siri Hayes’s large-format photograph Lyric Theatre at Merri Creek shows an immense canopy of trees that dwarfs three tiny people standing on the banks of a creek in inner city Melbourne. Apart from sublime statements about Nature, the tangled branches metaphorically speak of the mess that the land is in. The images in Hayes’ series explore an ecosystem in a downward spiral, where the effluvia of modern life – the ubiquitous Coke cans, plastic bags and syringes – choke up waterways and spoil the picture-postcard view.