New Australian Plants and Animals investigates indeterminate aspects of perception related to human vision and postcolonial conditioning. Through an inventive range of lens-based artworks, this series draws parallels between preconscious visual phenomena and the subjective experience of non-indigenous Australians of multiple generations.
The space inside the eye represents a fundamental point of human understanding and contact with the world however this series began with the realisation that the human eye experiences the world in a vastly different way to how we consciously perceive it. What is recorded on the retina is unknown to us as the mind unconsciously renders that aesthetic into conscious perception. In between our mind and the world beyond our ‘being’ is a third space where an unknown aesthetic, mediated by our physiology, is experienced.
The works can be seen to approach preconscious visual phenomena through the use of primitive photographic lens technology. This process is applied to the subject matter: introduced plants and partially naturalised migrants. This synthesis of subject and materials examines preconscious vision whilst questioning aspects of colonisation-in-reverse where the colonised land immeasurably exerts itself on the coloniser’s psyche. The partially naturalised migrant is metaphorically compared to introduced plants in Australia that are found inexplicably to evolve into new species.
The images in this series were produced with a custom-made camera that employs a single lens borrowed from a pair of reading glasses to focus the image. The image is then recorded on a large, 16”x20” analogue negative. This process is a devolution in photographic technology; going back in time to a fictitious point in history where the recording media was far more sophisticated than the lens technology. Through this process a potentially new photographic aesthetic is arrived at: one that produces an ocular aesthetic and a three-dimensional effect; when viewed large-scale there is a pronounced sense of depth.
In terms of technological progress, this series relies on looking backwards in order to find something ‘new’. In this regard the work questions the modern narrative of technological progress at all costs by revealing there is a fundamental visual aesthetic that has seemingly been neglected because of the fast-paced progress of optical technologies
Through this aesthetic, the series also highlights photography’s historic role in falsely maintaining the view that the human eye views the world with a flat, sharp field of focus by revealing how images potentially appear at the back of the human eye before being processed by the mind. Broadly, the difference between pre-conscious vision and conscious perception is that the eye initially sees the world with an ‘arc of focus’ which later replaced by the mind with a flat-field of focus. How this manifests as an image, apart from being inverted, is that the only areas in focus fall within the ‘arc of focus’. In this respect, the aesthetic both unconsciously makes sense and unsettles. You have seen it before but you don’t know where. .
2016 New Australian Plants and Animals – Gallery 25, Perth, AUS
2015 The Alchemists – Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney.
2015 Phenomoflex Installation – Perth Fringe Festival, AUS.
2014 New Australian Plants and Animals – Perth Centre for Photography, AUS.
2014 New Australian Plants and Animals – Singapore National Museum, Singapore.
2014 Of Spears and Pruning Hooks – Spectrum Gallery, Perth, AUS.
Series progress blog: http://mikegrayphoto.net/newblog/