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Round and Round
May 29, 2018 - July 22, 2018
Low Tide 2017, Archival pigment ink photograph on Hahnemühle Photo Rag, 667mm H x1000mm W. Courtesy of the artist and Tim Melville Gallery
Roberta Thornley: Round and Round
29 May – 22 July, opening 28 May from 6pm
Photography Gallery, Little Gallery and First Floor Foyer
Auckland Festival of Photography exhibition
She knew how to hit to a hair’s-breadth that moment of evening when the light and darkness are so evenly balanced that the constraint of day and the suspense of night neutralise each other, leaving absolute mental liberty.
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles
The notion of a continuous cycle resonates through Roberta Thornley’s practice conveying a sense of never-ending blossoming and decay. Landscapes and subjects are captured at first light or dusk; objects hover, oscillating between those glowing with the potency of life to others withering into darkness. The subjects of her portraits are caught in a moment of transition through a physical or emotional change.
Thornley’s working process can be described as fluid. She continually shifts from one genre to the next, portraiture to still life to landscape. Round and Round presents all three modes with works that allude to a temporal and a never-ceasing ebb and flow.
In Flow (2012) a stream appears framed by vegetation with details caught by the last light of the day. A single flower in Forget-me-not (2015) is fresh and vibrant while set on a black background. On the other hand, two wilted dark brown bananas sink in to the dark setting of Pair (2009). Thornley is interested in her subjects’ relationship to time, and she liberates them, in a sense, with elements of playfulness in her work. This is reiterated in several works where she re-visits subjects – balloons and bananas appear again in other photographs at different moments in their evolution.
Thornley’s exploration of the cyclical is evident in the portrait of her mother, Crying my Mother’s tears (Meme) 2010. She is shown bare-shouldered, vulnerable with tearful emotion; ‘carrying, Thornley explains, ‘generations of tears from my grandmother Meme through to me’. This portrait also captures what Thornley terms ‘the barnacles of our existence’. There are signs of one being alive, the tactile presence of her mother’s skin and a sense of her very breath.
These concepts are expanded further in a series made in 2015 during her residency at the Tylee Cottage in Whanganui, with the Sarjeant Gallery. With Millie, a teenage gymnast from Whanganui, the idea of the body as a vessel is considered through a visual narrative. A pivotal moment is presented – Millie is on the cusp of leaving home for the first time to further gymnastic training overseas. In Trampoline we see Millie suspended high above the lawn at her Castlecliff home. Of note is Thornley’s use of natural light showing a specific time of day. Dusk suggests notions of transition, the momentary and recurrence as day crosses into night. This underscores another moment of change, the journey of adolescence into adulthood.
Roberta Thornley was born in Auckland in 1985, graduating from Elam School of Fine Arts in 2007. In 2011, Thornley was the inaugural recipient of the Auckland Festival of Photography Annual Commission and in 2015 she was awarded a residency at Tylee Cottage with the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.
Thornley has exhibited in Australia and throughout New Zealand. Her work is held in collections including Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui and the Wallace Arts Trust, and in 2017 Thornley was awarded The Marti Friedlander Photographic Award in 2017 by the Arts Foundation. She is represented by Tim Melville Gallery in Auckland.
Please join us for the opening celebration on Monday 28 May from 6pm. We will also be celebrating the opening of Mary Macpherson: The Long View