Anne Ferran

Box of Birds

Anne Ferran

source: suttongallery
Box of Birds derives from an archive of 38 pictures of female patients who were photographed in a Sydney psychiatric hospital in 1948. Ferran discovered this archive by accident more than a decade ago in a public library (it should not have been there and has since been removed).

While acknowledging the emotional and ethically challenging nature of the archive, Ferran felt strongly drawn to it, and in 2003 she exhibited several bodies of work (Insula, 1-38, Anybody) developed from this source. More recently she has revisited the archival portraits with the desire to unleash more of the power lying latent in them. “As a believer in the residual power of the past to unsettle the present, I wanted to investigate the capacity of photography and performance to do this kind of work.” Anne Ferran, 2014.

Ferran has collaborated with dancers Tess de Quincey, Victoria Hunt and Linda Luke, from the Sydney-based company De Quincey Co, who employ lengths of dyed and painted felt to cloak, extend and distort the shape of their bodies. The felt refers to institutional garb, while the strong white painted lines, reminiscent of garment templates, serve to transform these cloaks into simplified abstract forms. Held up individually to the camera, these blankets are mask-like, even uncanny.

In a smaller number of works, the performers improvise, each session commencing with two or three bodies huddled under loose pieces of felt and concluding when all the felt drops to the ground. Ferran intended that out of this unpredictable process previously unseen images could emerge.

The title Box of Birds happens to be a New Zealand expression, almost unknown in Australia, for joyous exuberance or wellbeing: ‘How are you today? Box of birds!’ To Ferran it suggests something else – “the fluttering energy of unquiet spirits in a confined space.”

Anne Ferran has been exhibiting since the 1980s. Her landmark series Scenes on the Death of Nature, presented at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, in 1987, established her as one of Australia’s leading photographic artists. She has been the recipient of prestigious awards, fellowships and grants, which include winning the Higashikawa International Photographer Award (2009), and the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photographic Award (2003). This year Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, WA presented a major survey show of Ferran’s work, which tours to the Australian Centre for Photography, NSW. This follows The ground, the air, another large-scale show that marked the culmination of her decade-long work Lost to Worlds, and was presented by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Wollongong City Gallery. Her work is held in major public collections, including the International Museum of Photography, New York, NGA, NGV, Monash University, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, AGSA, and AGNSW.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
source: stillsgallery
For the past 20 years, Anne Ferran has worked with the residues of Australia and New Zealand’s colonial histories, probing them for gaps and silences. She has been especially drawn to the lives of anonymous women and children, seeking to shed light on their presence, and absence, in museum collections, photographic archives and historic sites. It is characteristic of Ferran’s images that the subject is not what is seen but rather what haunts it, something only partially visible. Intellectually and emotionally engaging, her photographs have explored episodes of incarceration in prisons, asylums, hospitals and nurseries, giving voice to the spectres of the lost and unseen.
Ferran has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally since the 1980’s, and is highly regarded as an artist, academic and writer. She has been the recipient of prestigious awards, fellowships and grants, which include winning the Higashikawa International Photographer Award (2009), and the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photographic Award (2003). In 2014, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, WA presented a major survey show of Ferran’s work which toured to the Australian Centre for Photography, NSW. This follows The ground, the air, another large-scale show that marked the culmination of her decade-long work Lost to Worlds, and was presented by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Wollongong City Gallery. Her work is held in major public collections, which include the International Museum of Photography, New York, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Monash University, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Art Gallery of New South Wales.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
source: photography-now
Anne Ferran works with the residues of Australian colonial history, particularly of women and children, closely examining the often-meagre evidence of their lives. Lost To Worlds 2008 is the culmination of more than a decade’s exploration by the artist of the same piece of ground, a paddock on the outskirts of the small village of Ross in central Tasmania. In the mid 19th century this was the site of a female factory or female convict prison, a place of secondary punishment for women who re-offended after arriving in the colony. Today little remains of that past apart from some mounds of earth and scattered stones. “Ferran’s practice…focusing on incidental details and overlooked subjects, combining the indexical authority of the photograph with the sensorial resonance of symbolic objects and materials, brings history up against itself, up against its desire to differentiate itself from the now. Ferran’s work instead insists on confronting us with the past’s tenacious persistence.”
Geoffrey Batchen The ground, the air catalogue 2008 Ferran’s first exhibition of photographs from this site was in 2001. Some of those earlier images are reprised Lost To Worlds 2008, now a body of 30 large photographs digitally printed onto aluminium. The gallery audience effectively sets the work in motion, the play of light across the metal surfaces simultaneously reflecting their passage and clouding their view. The photographs offer occasional glimpses of sky or horizon but for the most part the view is resolutely towards the ground. Presented with few clues or meaningful facts to hold onto, our expectations of photography are confounded in much the same way as the bare ground confounds an understanding of this place’s history. These photographs collectively reflect the ongoing difficulty of grasping and making sense of a ruined and fragmented past. Lost To Worlds 2008 asks the question: how is it possible for a place to release what it knows? Anne Ferran is one of Australia’s foremost photo artists. She has exhibited widely both in Australia and overseas. Her work is held in most major Australian public collections including those at the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Monash University, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of NSW. It is also in the collection of the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, New York. She currently lectures in the Photomedia Studio of Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.