Author: Anonymous Submitted: 05.10.09 Word Count: 1304
Bill Henson is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists. A master of light and dark in the tradition of the great European masters, he brings together in his work the formal and classical with the gritty, casual dramas of the everyday. Henson’s powerful and edgy photographs are both painterly and cinematic. They mostly relate to the structural frame. His work has been shown in the public domain since 1975, when he had first solo show at the National Gallery of Victoria, and now, at age 50, he is an artist in full stride. Also the subjective frame can be relative to his works.
Bill Henson was born in 1955 in Melbourne. Henson lives and works in Sydney. He is part of the continuing tradition of photographers pushing the boundaries of photography as fine art. Henson is a passionate and visionary explorer of twilight zones, of the ambiguous spaces that exist between day and night, nature and civilization, youth and adulthood, male and female. His photographs have been seen in major international exhibitions and survey shows. Venues include the BibliothËque Nationale in Paris, MusÈe d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna, the Venice Biennale, most Australian museums, and gallery shows in the United States. Some of his works include from Untitled 1985/86, Paris Opera Project 1991 and Untitled 1994/95.
The Structural frame is where the artist conveys the meaning of the art through texture, line, colour, boldness, text or style. Bill Henson links to this frame the best because in his photographs he uses different techniques and uses the elements and principles of design, which include colour, tone, texture, line, shapes, movement, balance etc. In all of Henson’s photographs he uses a Type C photograph.
The photograph from Untitled 1985/86 (Source A page ) is a portrait of a young girl leaning on what appears to be a pole. Behind her you can see a very cloudy grey sky. This photograph comes from the most colourful series of Henson’s works. It consist of 154 images taken in Egypt and of the 1980’s teenagers in suburban Melbourne. In this photograph Henson has given the girl a young innocent look by having no expression on her face and by having the light coming from behind her nearly creating a silhouette. He has used dark colour’s to give the photo a darker gritty look to show that this young innocent girl is alone in this dark world.
In 1990, Bill Henson was commissioned by the Paris Opera to produce a body of work. This series known as Paris Opera Project 1991 consisted of 50 images including landscapes, cloudscapes and people. In this series he concentrates on the total effect of music, a time-based medium, and how it could be translated into the silent, still form of the photograph. This photo (Source B page 6) from the series is of two people. An older man who has a face of experience stands in front of a little boy with very fair skin with a ting of palest green. He has used digital printing to blur out the little boy. This can give the sense of reject. The old man treats the little boy like an outcast from society.
In 1992/93 Henson began a series of ‘cut screens’, which continued on for four years and includes the body of work. In this photograph from Untitled 1994/95 he has ripped the photograph into pieces and rearranging the jagged pieces of the image alongside shards of white paper which was the back of the photographic paper. In each photo from this series there is seven of the artists signature slashes. In this image (Source C page 7) the location is set at a forbidden unknown land filled with trees and twilight skies. In the image are two naked teenage girls giving us this feel of agony and pain in front of a car wreck. Woman or in this case teenage girls are the symbol of beauty. Henson has given the two teenagers this un-youth like image. The photograph has very dark shadows and a very bright dull sky. He has also used Glassine in this image.
Bill Henson can also be related to the Subjective Frame. The subjective frame gives us more of a meaning to the artwork through feelings and emotions it gives us. Henson is linked to this frame because his photographs suggest to us many different feelings and emotions and that these emotions are expressed in many different ways through his photographs.
So going back to the photograph from Untitled 1985/86 (Source A page 5) we know that this image of a young innocent girl. Henson is trying to give this sense that teenagers seem lost in an obscure sullenness, their darkest angst tinged with melancholy. People and places are juxtaposed between loneliness and desire, as if these youths are drifting mindlessly, perhaps to their destruction. The way the girls head is position looks like she is think of something or is wishing for all of this loneliness to go away. By the light coming from behind her also gives the thought that she has left that once happy place and is now all alone.
The photograph from Paris Opera Project 1991 (Source B page 6) tells another story about humans. He shows the relationships between children and adults. To show emotion through this picture Henson has concentrated on the facial expressions of the old man and the little boy. The old man has this expression of strict policy and responsibility with his head straight ahead and his perfect posture. The little as his head up high gives a sense that the little boy has more spirit within him and that he can still believe. Although the old man has more control, the little will have this sense of freedom. Truthfully this photograph could mean a lot of different things so imagination is important in this image.
The image from Untitled 1994/95 (Source C page 7) notates a kind of chaos, the beginning of time or the end, we are staring at things at the point of their collapse or at the moment before everything coheres. WE know that more is happening then what we can understand, perhaps more than we can bear. So much of Henson’s work has gestured at the condition of the dream. But now, with his jagged alignments, his irresistible internal logic, his soaring deathly landscapes his blurred, receding figures and gashes of white light, he has come nearer to rendering the sensation of dream itself than ever before Dreams are precise, unarguable, immune to what we think of them. We sleep, things happen, we wake, these things never happened at all and now they are part of us.
In conclusion, Bill Henson is an Australian Contemporary artist who works with photography. Although he is a photographer he treats his photographs like they were paintings. We see that he is connected through the structural frame by going through the themes of lighting, colour and texture. The second frame he is linked to is the subjective because he focuses on how he expresses his emotions through the faces of his characters and giving them this unknown environment, that engages the audience and makes them think about the person and their life. In all his work Henson he uses the art elements and emotions to convey his place in the Australian Contemporary art society.
• Education kit (2005).
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By Murphy Bouma