Dead End - Book Launch and Exhibition
25 July 2019
For his first solo exhibition at Wedge Gallery, Dead End, Alan McFetridge culminates work from his research project on fire ecology shot across Australia and Canada. A hauntingly beautiful array of large scale photographs and camera-less photograms creates an acute awareness of fossil fuels danger to social, economic and political stability.
As climate heating takes hold, his field studies are organised to translate the impact of 21st Century fire regimes. McFetridge’s unique ability find clarity amidst chaos is presented through detailed form and considered materials.
In these new works, which includes his latest photobook, On The Line, the photographer moves from a distant overview of aftermath to make contact with fire itself. This progression is achieved by altering camera techniques. A tripod-mounted large format digital camera creates cinematic landscapes, composed in wide angle from human head height perspective.
Closer, a bulky 6x7 analogue film camera is hand-held in near freezing conditions. The results are a typology of burnt standing trees with an unconscious stillness from shallow focus field as the photographer reacts to the low light and penetrating cold. Positioned on site of Canada’s largest mass evacuation of people, the trees stand forlorn, juxtaposed with illuminant skies and autumn colours.
Fire contact is made by adapting a technique from inventor Fox Talbot who produced his first successful photographic images in 1834 without a camera. Dried plants were collected from the forest floor and placed onto instant film. By matchstick the ignition burns the dried plants and exposes the film simultaneously. Bold, vivid photograms are absent of sharpness and immerse the viewer into an abstract world of colour and light. These are placed between negatives to represent a cyclic movement and expanding fire seasons. The negatives were then placed outside during the Canadian night, where latent liquid quickly crystallised in the dry freezing air, producing unique imprints of monochromatic patterns.
In On The Line McFetridge refers to a frontier, presenting a striking typology of burnt trees from Fort McMurray’s aftermath. Reminiscent of a charred tree trunk, the book is scaled at 40x30cm. Consciously absent of plastic wrappings or glossy coatings the dark cover is tactile and porous, printed with a double hit of black vegetable ink onto flint coloured Extract, the innovative G.F Smith card made from discarded coffee cups.
Fire regimes have entered an unprecedented phase in many parts of the globe, including Australia. Fire seasons are extending in regions where there is an ancient history, other regions have experienced fire for the first time in thousands of years. At a time of accelerated heating, the question of adaptation becomes central. Governments and citizens seeking to prevent significant social, political and economic fallout from the developing global fire crisis must act.
Book Launch: 25 July 5:30pm
Preview: 25 July 6:00pm
Exhibition continues until 6 August
Wedge Gallery and Kinokuniya Books
Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George St,
Sydney, NSW 2000. www.kinokuniya.com