Lauren Hewitt and Madeleine Donovan are outstanding young photo artists who were chosen as EASS residents from the 2003 graduating year in the Photomedia Department at the ANU School of Art. Latent is representative of their work since graduation and is the first exhibition to show in the redeveloped HUW DAVIES GALLERY.
Lauren Hewitt had an earlier association with PhotoAccess as a diploma course student in 1998. Under the Mango Tree and Airmail, the work she presented in the ANU School of Art graduating show five years later, testified eloquently and beautifully to the success of her journey from craft to art. In Latent her interest in visually beautiful images persists, but there are also images suggesting mysterious goings on in dark gardens and other inhabited but unpeopled places. Drama laden night scenes—an unseen observer peering at light filled windows, peculiar shapes corralled by a backyard Hills hoist—contrast with atmospheric, exquisitely defined bare branches and wispy clouds threaded against many coloured skies.
Lauren Hewitt’s work is introspective, touching on the deep personal emotions most of us feel but can’t or won’t voice. The images in this exhibition evoke feelings of wistful contemplation, love of the small and the grand things in nature, and agonising loneliness.
Madeleine Donovan’s work is all about people and their environment. Her work presented in the ANU School of Art graduating show, as with the work in Latent, locates human tableaux in rooms and landscapes that both add to and take meaning from their surroundings. Using skills developed over a long period of involvement in circus, Madeleine is frequently artist and subject.
The work in Latent was developed during an emerging artist residency at Bundanon in 2004. Like Arthur Boyd, Madeleine Donovan has placed figures in the Shoalhaven River landscape and the interiors and environs of the Bundanon homestead. Unlike Boyd’s narcissistic, exposed and threatened nudes or manic environmental vandals (mainly water skiers), Madeleine Donovan’s figures work together, support one another, posit an optimistic point of view and interesting, often amusing questions about their actions and locations. Her work is sensitive to the frailty of humanity but bold in its assertion of human values.
Lauren Hewitt and Madeleine Donovan have each achieved a remarkable virtuosity in their use of a medium that swings between prosaic documentation and the rare, profoundly insightful and inspirational images that can emerge when an artist turns her or his eye on the world. There is no doubting the place in that spectrum these two young artists occupy.