Photographic processes are almost 150 years old. They’ve been used by scientists, artists and politicians to represent the world we live in. Aotearoa New Zealand photographer Laurence Aberhart has gained acclaim here and abroad for his subtle presentation of national identity through historically aware eyes.
The Fisher Gallery, public gallery for Manukau, in partnership with the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui, presents All Gates Open an exhibition of photographs by contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand artist Laurence Aberhart. All Gates Open includes 54 photographs printed in silver gelatin and platinum. This is the most significant project by this artist this decade. It shows his developing experimentation with platinum printing, and subjects from former colonies around the Pacific rim.
The platinum process is long redundant. It was originally used at the turn of the century, primarily for portraiture. Aberhart has collected rare platinum materials from sources internationally to produce works that use it’s typically subtle tonal effects. Ex-colonies always seek definition, signs and symbols that speak of their uniqueness. The process of creating an identity can mean collating, borrowing, rearranging signs and symbols from different sources to produce a new image. Taken out of their original context, and recycled, these images take on new meanings, tell new stories. It is these images that capture Aberhart’s interest. This is an exhibition characterized by irony - “new” countries using “old” images, “new” photographs taken with “old” technology, “new” (post colonial) modern audiences viewing “old” (colonial) structures.
Aberhart’s lens focuses on historical sites such as memorials, cemeteries, lodges and churches. This exhibition presents a body of work exploring issues of identity in former colonies, Aotearoa New Zealand, America, Hong Kong and Australia. Aberhart’s work is characterized by his historical subject matter and technical proficiency. Aberhart uses an old fashioned 8” x 10” Korona view camera (technology over eighty years old) and has revived technologies for printing and developing which have long been forgotten. When choosing subjects he selects sites with strong tonal ranges. The resulting images have an intentionally authoritative quality similar to photographic images from the nineteenth century.
'Celebrating the obscure', Sunday Star Times, 29-08-1999
'Renewing Acquaintances', All Gates Open book review, 1998
'Traces of time', The New Zealand Listener, 12-09-1998
'All Gates Open' exhibition card, 1998