As part of Tangent photography collective I was fortunate to host Melbourne photographer Kate Robertson for an evening during her recent visit to Aotearoa.
Robertson spoke to a small group of lens-based artists at Unitec in Auckland. In her talk she outlined the ways in which her practice both draws on and propagates the processes and insights of community healing groups.
Robertson builds trust and understanding within these quite marginal communities over extended periods of time, and is herself immersed in the activities of each group as she gathers material for her work. This temporal expansion is something that is then reintegrated into the making itself.
Roberston builds her images through laborious sequences of analogue processes in the darkroom, utilizing many techniques associated with the photogram and with traditional black and white printing. She also incorporates digital aspects where the final outcome demands a greater scale than the printing paper will afford.
Her works have an uncanny ability to operate on several planes simultaneously. At once they very directly speak to the avant garde of the 19th century, to the work of Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy. They also have a sculptural quality; areas of the image plane are physically raised to create negative space within the image, pushing into a third dimension from the flat paper surface.
There is a mapping at work; the tracing of the physical processes undertaken in the circle-work of the community is integral to the images. Ultimately, the sprinkled soil of the Dust landscapes series and the concentric lines and circles of Cosmic walk and other learnings communicate a strong sense of the cosmos, of a re-enchanted universe.
Roberston’s images have for me a wonderful synchronicity. They speak of the spiritual and of human collective consciousness in a rich visual language that is at once engaged with contemporary art discourse around representation and the ethnographic document while also being richly informed by photographic craft and traditions.