12th July – 5th August 2017
At first glance, Unprotected Images by Jill Crossley is a study of two contrasting trees; huge figs and wispy sheoaks.
They appear to be opposites. The figs are strong and bold. Muscular. Light and silky. Big extroverts boasting of their size and sheer presence. The sheoaks – or casuarinas – are dark and slender and murmur in clusters along waterways, casting their blanket of fine needles to preserve their mystery and quiet. Easy to overlook. Easy to underestimate. Easy to under value.
But, the thread which weaves through 88 year old Crossley’s oeuvre, is to look beyond the surface. This exhibition is a contemplation of similarity and difference with a profound message about the interconnectedness of life and the natural world.
“Ficus and casuarina are both trees,” she says. “Like people. And in spite of our diversity of cultures, and with the social upheaval and discord flamed by current political environments which emphasis those differences, we are all one.”
Crossley has been indelibly influenced by the work and philosophy of Kenji Miyazawa, the Japanese Poet of Light (1896-1933), whose progressive, environmental philosophy was derided by his contemporaries but underscored how one part of the complex natural web could not be changed without influencing all else.
In the exhibition, the figs are sensuous and svelte. Some images, which are abstractions, could be mistaken for human forms, while others contrast the fragility of aerial roots against the majesty of trunks and limbs. Their singularity is emphasised, and somehow they are rendered, solitary unique individuals in these works.
These trees – Hills Weeping Ficus – grow close to Trumper Park, Paddington, where Crossley lived earlier in her life.
Under Crossley’s care, the casuarinas shimmer with diversity, a brilliance and a range, which for most viewers is unsuspected. The dark and dour colours of this tree, their relegation as non-useful timber, is revealed as a camouflage. Crossley communicates their lyricism and charisma.
The stand in this exhibition is located behind Gosford Regional Art Gallery’s Japanese garden, not far from where Crossley now lives on the Central Coast.
The sheer ebullience, of branches, fine needle foliage, and conversation of trunks and branches give these casuarinas a community and joie-de-vivre that contrasts strongly with the ego-centricity of the figs.
“What appeals to me is their mysteriousness and their subtlety. What is hidden. I try to find patterns and try to make sense of it in an artistic way when I photograph. I would like to find poetry in them, but it is elusive.”
“I want to find an order in what initially seems confusing – and to communicate that. I hope viewers will see some of the beauty and feel some of the inspiration I get from these trees.”
While the representation of the trees in this exhibition demonstrates their opposing natures, and features, their form, beauty and life is also strongly celebrated and we, the viewers, are enriched.
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Jill Crossley was born in Western Australia where her parents farmed a cropping and grazing property in the state’s south. It was her father’s photography of stud rams which sparked her interest in photography and she was a commercial photographer for much of her career.
During her freelance years, she specialised in portrait and art works, capturing the output on many artists. Her gallery clients included; Roslyn Oxley, Watters, Painters, Hogarth, Bonython Meadmore, Ray Hughs, Stephen Mori, Robyn Brady, Legge, 460 and Broken Hill City.
Crossley spent time of assignment in Papua New Guinea, New Britain and New Ireland and worked with the Australian Archaeological Team in Pompeii, Italy.
Crossley was inspired by the high aesthetic standards she observed working with Max Dupain (1957-8) as an assistant, and in turn, he was impressed with her work.
Described as a “tenacious, talented photographer” by Robert McFarlane, she features along with Olive Cotton in Australian Women Photographers 1840-1960 by Barbara Hall and Jenni Mather (1981).
The National Gallery of Australia’s travelling exhibition In the Cold Photography 1945-1965 included her work, of which the Sydney Morning Herald’s Bruce James wrote: “Australians Max Dupain and Jill Crossley hold their own”.
Crossley’s love of form and sculpture saw her own artistic practise expand to ceramics, but since her focussed return to photography she has exhibited each year since 2010.