Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Matthew Dowling - From Landcare Officer to Photographic Artist

I first became interested in taking landscape photographs in 1990 when I was employed as a Landcare Officer based at Port Augusta. During the three years I worked for the Department of Agriculture, I travelled huge distances attending landcare meetings from the Gawler Ranges west of Port Augusta, to Copper Hills Station near Marla and even at Moomba in the middle of the Strzelecki Desert.

It was during those long trips by car or plane that I fell in love with the desert landscape of outback South Australia and the almost overwhelming beauty of the Flinders Ranges. Although I’d visited these regions many times before, it almost felt like I’d rediscovered this vast expanse of SA by experiencing the full range of seasonal changes that have created this complex ancient landscape.

Gradually I expanded my range of subject matter and to my delight I discovered the ‘moody’ wetlands of the Limestone Coast/South East region; the Adelaide Botanic Gardens; Fleurieu Peninsula’s exquisite coastal landscapes; grand 19th Century buildings; the mining history and secluded beaches of Yorke Peninsula; the fabulous isolation of Kangaroo Island and most rewarding of all - capturing people ‘doing their own thing’ whilst completely oblivious of the camera.

Many people ask me how I became a photographer? No, I am not an industry trained photographer. I believe that my ability to compose a good photograph developed during my Parks & Wildlife Management Degree and the subsequent large number of field based environmental projects that I was associated with over a 15 year period. When composing a photograph I attempt to have as many contrasting colours and patterns in the camera’s view finder as possible.

Incorporating Human Form into the Natural Landscape

Whilst working at the High St Gallery in Willunga during 2005, visitors from Adelaide often remarked to me how sensual the Sellicks Hill Ranges were. These ranges form a prominent backdrop to the township of Willunga. Gradually it dawned on me that I should create a photographic art portfolio which reflects the sensuous nature of the Fleurieu Peninsula by incorporating the human form into my landscape images.

The two best images that have best captured the synergistic relationship between the human form and natural landscapes are: ‘Lettuce Lady, Maslin Cliffs and ‘Silk Moth, Sellicks Hill’.

Embracing New Technology

Having intensively used the fabulous program Photoshop for 12 months or so, during 2005 quite by chance I discovered that it was possible to easily reverse the colours of an image, such that a blue sky become ochre and ochre rocks are converted into various shades of blue.

At its best this reversal of colour can transform an image into what is best described as ‘colour x-ray’. The attractive ochre rocks in the photo ‘Radio Active Rocks, Victor Harbor’ appear to be almost radio-active in the colour reversal image, hence the title. Another image that has been magically transformed via Photoshop is ‘Chocolate Sea, Port Willunga’.

Why is My Business Called Desert Lime?

This shrub or small tree is Australia’s only true citrus species that grows in many parts of inland Australia. The closest stand of Desert Lime to Adelaide is a small grove adjacent to Mambray Creek National Park in the foothills of the southern Flinders Ranges. I choose this name from a book on bush tucker to reflect my love for the Australian continent.

Photographic Art: My Secret Garden

Somewhere within all of us there is a secret garden. This is a place only truly known to yourself in whom we seek refuge when times are tough - feel the need to contemplate the universe or simply do something that gives us joy. We all have emotional landscapes inside us, secret rooms where feelings and impressions blossom into our secret garden.

Some people talk about it, others write poems or express their inner feelings on canvas. Sitting in your favourite chair contemplating the joy of life or simply take a walk amongst nature allows many of us to nurture our own secret garden. For me, my secret garden is the joy I feel when I’m amongst nature capturing those exquisite moments or even ‘sneaking up on’ members of the human species when they are blissfully unaware of the camera whilst doing their own thing.

Website Images/Biography

www.artroom.com.au (click on Artists in menu)

Joint Exhibitions

‘The Fleurieu Experience’ with Leigh Marshall, Shingleback Winery, McLaren Vale, Oct 2006
‘Corroboree’ with John Davis and Evelyn Roth, Red Poles Gallery, March 2007
‘Eclecticity’ with Evelyn Roth and John Davis, South Coast Regional Art Centre, Goolwa, May 2007
‘Textural Tensions’ with Kim Thomson, Willy Hill Café, Willunga, August 2007

Solo Exhibitions

Tandanya Café, Adelaide, Nov 2001
‘Taste of the Outback’, Waverley House, Willunga, Sept 2002
‘Inner Reflections’, The Art Room Gallery, Hyde Park, June 2003
‘Ochre Dreaming’, Rawnsley Park Station, Flinders Ranges, July 2003
‘Epi:Fleurean’, Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre, Oct 2004
‘Fleurieu: Four Seasons’, Waverley House, Willunga, March 2005

Competition Wins

2004 Winner, Penola District Business & Tourism Acquisitive Photographic Competition
2005 Winner, Penola District Business & Tourism Acquisitive Photographic Competition
2006 Merit Award, Willunga Almond Blossom Festival Photographic Competition
2007 Merit Award, Alexandrina Photographic Exhibition