Hetty Johnson, serves up stormy tea.

Hetty Johnson, please, I prefer coffee over tea.

Recently, an opening of an art exhibition by artist Bill Henson was cancelled, after Hetty Johnston complained to the authorities. Allegations that both federal and state laws were broken have been laid, at this point no one seems to know for sure who will be charged, with either the federal or the state charges. The Federal charges are apparently different to the sate ones, being that the Roslyn Oxely Gallery's website contained some of Henson's work depicting people of indeterminate ages in a variety of stages of undress. The state charges it seems are being laid because of the invitation that was printed and no doubt widely distributed.

What perplexes me is why now? Also, how does the website figure in all this? Henson has been using these kinds of models for over 20 years now. I attended both the NGV and AGNSW retrospectives of his work in 2005, as did over 115,000 other people, [at the AGNSW alone] not one single complaint then, at all, and to quote Miss Johnston, "period".

Some of Henson's supporters have suggested that the current Senate investigation about the representation of children in the media has been the catalyst for this, I tend to agree. There has been a real shift in the last few years, in public perceptions, about photography and how it is used. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure. One of my hopes about the democratisation of photograph digital promised seems to have blown up in our faces.

Personally, Bill Henson's prints inspire awe in me. The size of the prints alone would humble anyone. His mastery of lighting and technique divides photographers, both for and against. The richness and intensity of the colours he gets from his prints is probably only something I will ever aspire to. Seeing his prints displayed in a gallery moves the work to the experience that I suspect many early Christian's would have experienced seeing art for the first time in their Cathedrals.

None of this translates to the web or the small screen, the place where Mr Rudd made his sweeping judgements, nor to small postcard size reproductions, the image no doubt the Miss Johnson based her opinions on.

Over the years I have felt uncomfortable with some of the images depicted in Bill Henson's prints, but in the end the depth richness and subtlety of the prints wins out. As a bonus, Miss Johnson has done society a favour by generating some debate about what constitutes art in particular lens based art, Bill Henson's prints are indeed Art with a captial 'A'.

Edit, 2008.05.23 11:00
Here's an interesting read, and this, also, if you have a delicious account, check out the links I've dug up so far, you'll need to add me to your network first though.

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This page contains a single entry by s2art published on May 24, 2008 9:44 AM.

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