See what's on at the

Browse What's On

– Highlights

highlight
Workshop

Art Safari

Today, 10.30am, Level 3: National Centre for Creative Learning

highlight
Workshop

Art Safari

Today, 1.00pm, Level 3: National Centre for Creative Learning

highlight
Exhibition

Grayson Perry

10 Dec - 01 May

Create and Learn at the

All Learning Programs

– Learning Events

highlight
Workshop

Art Safari

Today, 10.30am, Level 3: National Centre for Creative Learning

highlight
Workshop

Art Safari

Today, 1.00pm, Level 3: National Centre for Creative Learning

highlight
Event

Genext: My Pretty Little Art Career

06 Mar, 6.00pm, Throughout the MCA

Find out more about the

About the MCA

– News from inside the MCA

Sharing The Artist’s Voice

Celebrating the launch of a new video portal, Alex White reflects upon the MCA’s history of producing and sharing interviews with artists and the importance of these activities for the organisation. more

My Pretty Little Sydney: A guide inspired by Grayson Perry

Much like Grayson’s work, Sydney is full of interesting enclaves if you are willing to take a closer look. We teamed up with The Thousands to create a Grayson Perry-inspired guide to Sydney! more

Building Confidence

Artist Educator Sue Salier reflects upon the certainty of youth in relation to our secondary workshop program Unpacking Unseen Images. more

View the Collection

Browse Collection

– Spotlights from the collection online

highlight
Volume One: MCA Collection

Works from the MCA Collection on display

highlight
Remain in Light: Photography from the MCA Collections

On tour until October 2015

highlight
ARTIST INTERVIEW

Watch our latest artist interview with Khaled Sabsabi

David Stephenson

Self portrait looking down a survey cut, proposed site of Gordon below Franklin Dam, Tasmania 1982

Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the artist, 2010

silver gelatin photographs on board

H 84 W 104.5 D 4.3cm
H 62.5 W 80.8cm
H 60 W 76.4cm
H 59 W 75.4cm

About the Artwork

David Stephenson has been taking photographs of the natural world and man-made environments for over thirty years: the night sky, arctic landscape, riverbeds, ecclesiastical ceilings, and global cityscapes. His works are marked by a sense of self-deliberation; they evoke notions of the sublime and man’s capacity to pass time.

Self portrait looking down a survey cut, proposed site of Gordon below Franklin Dam, Tasmania (1982) is a large-scale scene that uses a grid structure of separate photographs abutted against each other. Creating a panoramic mosaic, it references nineteenth-century panoramas as well as NASA composites of the surface of Mars and the Moon. This work is deliberately a-historical: Stephenson acknowledges that all photography is mediated. Aware of how it functions as a medium, he questions the conventional notion of photography as a form of pictorial ‘truth’. Stephenson has also chosen to depict a culturally and politically loaded site that, at the time, was as the centre of activism and political agitation in Tasmania. The work plays with the iconography and symbolism of ‘wilderness’, placing the photographer within the landscape in order to foreground the idea of ‘wilderness’ as an artificial construct.

Stephenson’s works, like those of Tasmanian photographer Peter Dombrovskis and his predecessor Olegas Truchanas, or the US photographer Eliot Porter who constructed new views of nature, are a celebration of the wild, intended to encourage others to care for it. Stephenson’s work expresses environmental concerns but is not produced as an instrument of social change. Instead, his role as a photographer is to make the viewer a witness to issues within our society; to represent a value system of exchange; and to offer an objective observation of nature, showing that man is intrinsically linked to his environment.

Artist Statement

The use of a mosaic-like grid of photographs could be read in a number of ways − as a response to the desire to depict the surrounding canopy of the rainforest, as an attempt to expand the narrow single-point perspective of the camera, and as a metaphor for the human attempt to structure and control nature. My intention was to return to the site during and after construction of the dam, to rephotograph established views and produce a time record of this landscape development. This plan was negated by the Australian High Court decision on 1 July 1983 which halted the Gordon-below-Franklin project.

References

Isabel Hesketh (Assistant Curator, Collections), In the Balance: Art for a Changing World, (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010; Glenn Barkley (curator), Statement of significant, object file note, MCA, 10 November 2010

Quotation: David Stephenson, ‘Marks in the landscape: notes 1979-91’, in Jerry De Gryse and Andrew Sant (eds), Our Common Ground: a celebration of art, place, and environment, pp 36-47

The panoramic composite emphasises photographic framing, perhaps challenging the monocular window which can be seen as the central metaphor of photography and most Western two-dimensional art.

David Stephenson

David Stephenson

– About the artist

b.1955

David Stephenson’s work has focussed on the aesthetics of environmental representation through the use of photography and video art. Through extended projects he has explored cosmological and technological manifestations of the sublime in subjects including the Tasmanian environment, Antarctica, star-filled skies, sacred architecture, hydroelectric developments, and the city at night.

Learn more
– Other works by the artist

– View also

All
Works

Related Exhibitions

In the Shop