Garden of the East

Gael Newton, senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, has given us a most delightful, and timely, view into Indonesia’s past with her exhibition ‘Garden Of The East: Photography in Indonesia 1850s-1960s’.

I saw history on the cusp; memorable photographs of places and people and animals, some recorded a century and a half ago by photographers looking through lenses in wooden contraptions called cameras; a search for a more lasting way to record history. Gauguin would have thought himself in paradise painting Woman from Bogar (c1890) or George Lewis’s Mount Guntur (c1910). Bill Henson might see the subtle sensuality of the young girl in Gregor Krause’s L’lle de Bali (c1930).

The face of young Javanese woman by Kassian Cephas (c1885) haunts me – Mona lisa lives again in this daguerreotype. Enigmatic must be a woman’s thing; perhaps this is why Newton put a face for all time on the cover of the excellent book for the exhibition. And the book is a collectors piece, not a coffee table show-off with a use by date, but a well crafted hand-me-down to be admired for lovers of photography and history, appreciating time.

Most galleries can be places to reflect on images past, but the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is our University of Art History, a repository of visual heritage, a most fitting place for the work of a highly qualified team for all to see and ponder.

Author: Gael Newton
Publisher: National Gallery of Australia
RRP: $29.95

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