The intimate imagery of Bill Henson comes to Art Gallery of WA

This exhibition presents recent photographs by Bill Henson, selected by the artist, and encompasses translucent portraits and nudes, lush museum interiors and haunting landscapes, to create an intimate space where the viewer’s imagination can roam.

The images in this show are drawn from a body of works created between 2008 and 2013, and continue Henson’s study of the human condition, of the unknowable and the familiar, the strangeness and mystery of the world, which he has realised over his distinguished forty year career.

Each of the twenty-three works included has a palpable sense of the cinematic and viewed as a total experience they create an enigmatic imaginative statement. Like much of his work, there is little that is explicit; rather the works imply open-ended narratives that capture a fleeting but deeply moving sensation of engaging with the artist’s evocation of flesh and blood people and real places. There is a sense of continuity between the images, a dialogue that is set up between them by the artist to create a “third space”, as he calls it.

Henson’s nudes are entirely self-absorbed as if engaged in some private reverie, while his landscapes are photographed at twilight, that transitional moment between light and dark at the end of each day; and his interior museum images juxtapose classical marble statues or paintings with visitors transfixed observing them.

The sense of mystery and ambiguity of these images is heightened by the deep blacks of the shadows which both hide and reveal the forms of the nudes, sculptures and landscapes.

“Each luminous image suggests some imaginative possibility within its dark beauty. For Henson, meaning comes from feeling, so projecting an empathy, a sense of the intimacy between himself and his subjects in front of the camera is critical to the emotional allure, the sheer beauty of his work,” said the exhibition’s coordinating curator, Jenepher Duncan, AGWA Curator of Contemporary Australian Art.

“Bill Henson is one of Australia’s most renowned artists. The works in this exhibition are animated by an individual beauty while projecting a universal meaning. After their initial successful showing at the National Gallery of Victoria, I’m delighted that AGWA can share the works with Western Australians,” said AGWA Director, Stefano Carboni.

Bill Henson opens at the Art Gallery of Western Australia on 16 September 2017.

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