An Evening and Dinner with Richard Morecroft at Cafe Wood Works

A Point of View - an address by Stan d’Argeavel at the opening of Richard Morecroft’s 2010 photographic exhibition at the Shoalhaven Regional Arts Gallery.

Richard has been dealing with points of view for many years in the ABC for most of his working life but they have mostly been the points of view of politicians, journalists, spin doctors, police, self interest groups and so on.

Now he deals with his own point of view – through his continued media work and through his television documentaries and most importantly as we see here today through his unique representation of the equally unique Australian Landscape through his still photography and now through sculpture as well.

What Richard has done is turn the notion of landscape on its head – not really though its only 90 degrees away to be able to present portraits of that landscape. The two terms are iconic terms for not only two of the major genres of photography but also for the shape of a painting or photograph.

Landscape deals with the near to the far, but it’s been predominantly the wide approach that is taken by artists. Richard has chosen to extrapolate that view in two ways, firstly by presenting a narrow ultra portrait shaped view and secondly by extending the reach of the near and far from the extreme close-up of the foreground details and elements to the far background detail, leading towards, or even up to, and beyond the horizon.

The images present an almost stratigraphical view of a vertical slice of the landscape, something akin to the fault lines to be seen on geological maps. Again it’s in opposition to the more common view of geological formations that most of us recognise as layered sediments. For me, its no coincidence that you might find a similar effect if you were to place a glass slide in a microscope normally horizontally, then turning the slide around to look at it vertically.

Richard depicts his element assemblages or progressions using 100% nature to portray the sequences you see here. He espouses a fascination by the processes that produce structures and patterns in geological and biological environments and all their details and repeated motifs, such as erosion, sedimentation, fractal patterns in vegetation and the crystalline formations of minerals.

Now he’s looking at a wider view of that horizontal world with the new assemblages based on evolution, both convergent and divergent, either converging from a fractured foreground to a perfect horizon or diverging from a coherent foreground to a discontinuity or distance. But these are not symmetrical slices joined to make a conveniently viewable whole, something you could expect to achieve in a single image.

And he is providing a metaphor for the amazing process of evolution in our natural world, with the many small changes made continuously over an almost incomprehensible timeframe. Richard believes these sequences are akin to the way we actually look at the world, in separate viewings or looks. Our eyes have a very wide angle view of around 160 degrees, not unlike a wide angle lens on the camera, but usually we can only look at one view at a time and shift our eyeball to see the full range in sections. That is separate looks.

But I find the really interesting area in our sight is the peripheral vision we all have. It reminds me of the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy, where the spaceship was so black and sleek , you could only see it when you are not looking directly at it.” I would like to attempt to exploit that phenomenon photographically one day.

I find it a bit a bit uncanny that Richard and I share many things, like a love of the landscape, and nature and surfing in one form or another, an appreciation for the geology that makes up our world, photography as our most preferred way of seeing and presenting our views of the world, and, after receiving some notes from Richard on the work for this exhibition, even the way we both know and view that world, in his words ”as just a lot of random atoms buzzing through our universe.” I have recently given up on the notion of a world in harmony, and am now looking for some kind of explanation in the mathematics of Quantum Theory.

And you may think that there is no link in all of this. Well you would be wrong. I just want to look briefly at a bit of history here, and in doing so will come why it is that Richard and other photographers are able to present their work today.

William Herschel was the man who put the Universe in plain view. With his ever increasingly sized telescopes and his handmade mirrors, lens elements and various coatings, he was able to look to the stars, and speculate on space, year by year in the age of romanticism. His work is incorporated in the photographic lenses of today and his most enduring and important discovery in his time was the discovery of the unfortunately named planet, Uranus. What Herschel applied to his work was an incredible level of disciplined observance, and building on that level of observation over a long period of time.

And these are two of the three basic things that Richard possesses, and as a photographer, needs, to succeed. A love and respect for technological development, particularly of all things optical, and an observing mind’s eye, applied to seek out and capture the visual scenario before him, be it landscape, in the street, in the studio or wherever one chooses to operate. The other basic thing of course is that other wonderful stuff that emanates from our best known bunch of random atoms, light and other sub atomic particles from the sun and the other stars and galaxies - the essence of not only photography, but of life as well.

All of this conspires to allow Richard to develop his images, pardon the pun, through the use of extreme depth of field, recording sharply and accurately in focus, the smallest detail in the element of the landscape nearest to him, the blade of grass, the grain of sand, to the rock or tree, to the mound or hill or rock-shelf, to the hill, or ocean, the horizon, the non ethereal sky and even further into outer space.

Richard’s almost unique visions of nature provide a fascinating insight into the depth of nature and show us graphically how our sense of sight works for us to be able to see our world.

Wednesday 11 January 2012