© Jane Brown, courtesy Breenspace, Sydney

Melbourne Now countdown – day 33

Jane Brown’s photographs prompt feelings of loss and unease, suggesting ghostly imprints rather than hard and fast realities. For Melbourne Now, she has produced the series, Not before time. Working with ‘almost arcane’ film and gelatin silver papers, she explores the transient nature of all things, be it her chosen medium or her melancholy subjects: decommissioned libraries, steam engines, or doomed buildings waiting for the wreckers ball.

In discussing this body of work Brown wrote:

‘Like much of my work there is sensitivity towards the impermanence of things, a reflective nostalgia that is not unlike the Japanese notion of Mono No Aware – where the awareness of the transience of things heightens the appreciation of their beauty, evoking a gentle sadness at their passing.

In many ways this new body of work also references the history of photography. Some images have an obvious pictorialist quality – images such as Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, 2011 seem to float in a weird neverworld of an Edward Steichen half-tone or a Henry Emerson photogravure. These images seem weighted in history and convey an uncanny ambiguity – the chair on the balcony, for example, has a whiff of 19th century spirit photography; the engine driver of a hobby steam train in a popular tourist resort evokes social realist imagery; even the 2011 documentation of a Melbourne architectural landmark before its demolition seems to draw on the Russian constructivist canon of an Alexander Rodchenko.’

Supported by Alistair Hay.