Heaven & Earth by Emma Conroy

Rowan Conroy, Heaven and Earth, from the despoiled tomb of Alcetas, Termessos, Turkey. 2006, printed 2019. Carbon piezography print on cotton rag.

In my practice I have been interested in the tradition of ruin thought, which is pertinent to both very recent ruins and abandoned ancient sites.
— Rowan Conroy

Above is an image from my upcoming show Sightseeing, opening at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery on 12 July.

The image depicts the classical motif of heaven and earth represented through the eagle and the snake. The image was taken at the Hellenistic Tomb of Alcetas, Termessos, Turkey. This work is of a number that were taken during an extensive trip in 2006, but have never been shown until this point.

This part of the exhibition will feature works such as this one, alongside much more recent industrial ruins from Australia.

Bowness Photography Prize 2018 by Emma Conroy

Rowan Conroy Kiln #1 from the Series The Poetics of Detritus 2008- 2019 (ongoing). Piezography print on cotton rag. Finalist in the 2018 Bowness Photography Prize.

The above work is a finalist in the 2018 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize. Here is the artist statement I submitted with the work:

Since 2005, my work has focused on the use of photographic technologies to address the beauty and discord, detailed richness and absence within landscape in Australia, the Middle East, Greece and China. This work Kiln #1, depicting an asbestos lined brick kiln, is part of a decade-long series The Poetics of Detritus which explores abandoned or overlooked sites in the built environment. These sites endure within the environment as witness to past human desires and motivations. The past echoes into the present through visual traces and artefacts. The disinterested eye of the camera renders these details, whether beautiful or unsightly, within the same frame. The earth is an expansive palimpsest, with many overlaid histories and mythologies written across its surface. Many of the places pictured in this series no longer exist.

Ruin thought can extend from the sites and fragments of deep antiquity to the sites of the recent past. Invoking this sort of  contemplation creates a continuum with other types of ruins, and is a methodology for seeing both the value of present conditions as well as recognizing the fragility and transitory nature of seemingly monolithic and stable systems and structures.

Rowan Conroy 2018 


Travellers from Australia - Pafos 2017 European Capital of Culture by Emma Conroy

I'm very pleased to have a series of three prints in the Exhibition Travellers from Australia which is part of the Pafos 2017 European Capital of Culture arts festival. Dr Craig Barker (Univ. of Sydney), Director of the Pafos Theatre Excavations, and Emeritus Professor Diana Wood Conroy (Univ. of Wollongong) have written about the dig and the role of artists on the excavation in a recent piece in The Conversation here

Below is taken from my short statement in the exhibition catalogue: 

I first attended the Pafos theatre excavations in 1996 at the age of fourteen. I went on to attend the dig in 1997, 2001, 2002 & 2006. Being exposed to archaeology and Cyprus at an impressionable age has had a lasting and profound impact artistically and academically. In 1997, I worked with the site photographer, Bob Miller. I recall the guerrilla darkroom, constructed in a dilapidated farm building, leaky and mouldy, this combined with the magical results of analogue photography - a fantastic memory to have and a formative experience.

In later seasons of “the dig” I worked as an archaeological illustrator. Drawing gave me an intimate and meditative exposure to the material culture of the site. One season when drawing an exquisite sherd of terra sigillata I discovered a perfectly preserved finger print on the base of the fragment. This formed a memory that I have returned to many times. It was moving to see the only remnant of a human presence physically etched in an object, and a sense of continuity with the ancient artists associated with the site. I went on to study visual art at Sydney University. By my honours year my interest in the intersection of art and archaeology had been cemented in my practice.

In 2011, I was conferred a PhD from Sydney university for my thesis Archaeologies of the Present: Rephotographing the William John Woodhouse Photographic Archive. This involved four years of research into the intersections of visual art and archaeology with a focus on photography. This was complemented by a reconstruction of a partly broken and fragmented Woodhouse photographic archive held at Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum. A year of field work in Greece in 2009-2010 followed and allowed a process of rephotography in the field, a process that uncovered as much about the original archive as it did about the present condition of the sites. 

As a freelance artist I have worked as an archaeological illustrator and photographer, complimenting my practice as a visual artist who is interested in sites of contemporary archaeology in Sydney and Australia more broadly. Since 2014, I have been lecturer in photography and media arts at the Australian National University School of Art in Canberra. Here my research interests have pivoted around digital technologies, particularly inkjet printing, and the role of more traditional artisanal practices such as printmaking and bookmaking and how these interface with new software and hardware. Prints in this exhibition were printed using modified engine software at the Australian National University Inkjet Research Facility, at which I am a key researcher. 

Looking back over the last two decades of my involvement in the Pafos excavations, I can see the experience has had an indelible influence on my ongoing practice as an artist and my ways of working in the studio or in the field. I continue to be interested in landscape history and the intersection of material culture and the built environment as a means of reading deeper patterns of use and occupation.

These three images above are from the artist’s viewpoint, in lighting and composition – an archaeological photo would never be taken under moonlight at an oblique angle, a viewpoint influenced by the archaeological sublime rather than a technical approach.

Photography has always had this uncanny ability to render the deep past and present in one image. I am interested in how the photography of sites is used as a memory aid, as a historical resource, as well as a reflective form of art.
— Rowan Conroy, Woodhouse Rephotography Project, Australian Centre of Photography Artguide, August 2013.

making design research  by Emma Conroy

Installation view, Untitled, from the series Weereewa / Bad water 2016. 3010 x 1180 mm pigment print on cotton rag.

Australian National University School of Art and Design Gallery, February 14-24, 2017

I have a big print (3010 x 1118mm) from my Weereewa / Bad Water  series in the exhibition making design research. I wrote on this ongoing project of mine in Art Monthly Australasia, Issue 294, Nov 2016. Many thanks to our Design workshop academics Geoff Hinchcliff and Mitchell Whitelaw for curating such a diverse and fascinating exhibition. 

NATURA NATURANS opening Sunday 28 September @ Barometer Gallery by Emma Conroy

Rowan Conroy, Untitled #13, from the series Natura Naturans 2014. Pigment inkjet prints on cotton rag.

My next solo exhibition Natura Naturans features photographic works that were made during the New South Wales firestorms of 17 October 2013. At the time Prime Minister Tony Abbot commented that firestorms are a natural part of the Australian landscape and this was simply nature going about its business, nature naturing. The reality of human induced climate change challenges these enlightenment notions of the sublime in nature. Now when we gaze at up at the clouds we can no longer be sure that what we are seeing is nature in its purest form free from the influence of human action. Scientists now regard this influence on the atmosphere as so conspicuous that we have entered a new geological epoch -  the anthropocene.  We as a species have not only marked the land we have changed the physiognomy of the sky. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a superb essay by Dr Martyn Jolly, Head of Photography and Media Arts, ANU School of Art.  

Show runs 28 September - 11 October 2014 at Barometer Gallery, Paddington.

Work selected for the Bowness Photography Prize by Emma Conroy

The Lookdown at Bungonia is located on the edge of the Morton national park, a rugged area 170 kms south of Sydney, part of the Shoalhaven river system. I was intrigued by the form of the landscape of this area, which is dominated by weather worn limestone escarpments.

In this work the two faces of the gorge are presented. On the left the seemingly pristine and rugged mountainous cliff, that recalled in my mind the famous landscapes paintings by the 10th century Chinese artist Fan K'uan. On the right is the Bungonia limestone quarry. A structure carved out of the land in monumental steps, giving it the appearance of an inverted ziggurat. 

This work was previously  selected for exhibition in the 38th Alice Prize 2014 at the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs. The 38th Alice Prize exhibition opened on Friday 9 May 2014 at the Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, and was judged Dr Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of NSW.