These days, it is difficult to predict what awaits us at a photography exhibition. That medium has changed considerably over nearly 180 years of its existence, in relation to technology, but also to its perception. From the initial experiments reserved only for a few individuals, photography has very quickly found its wide audience, affirmed its significance through the development of print and later electronic media, but also gained its recognition as an artistic medium. Its rich and versatile history is reflected at the present time when large number of photographers / artists choose photography as the basis for their artistic expression. This medium’s adaptability enables various approaches: from simple use of documentary photography to the extremely elaborate staged photographs. Although digital prints are the most commonly exhibited nowadays due to the nature of present-day technology, a significant number of contemporary artists insist on the material quality of the photographs and evoke the quality of traditional analogue medium through various hybrid processes.
Following such principles, Pete Volich has produced a series of prints on metal that visually resemble the early photographic techniques. Here, one cannot but remember Walter Benjamin who had published his seminal essay on photography in 1931.1 While writing about the beginnings of photography, Benjamin states that the early photographs were meant to last. Of course that at times when a lot of photographic archives are literary vanishing we are becoming painfully aware of the fragility of those early photographs, but what remains as important is that attitude which has completely changed by now, due to the possibilities of digital reproduction. Through his work Volich evokes that initial attitude towards photography as an object. The artist uses his own old negatives transferred to a lithographic film as a base for the new work. The negatives show macro photographs of people’s back gardens taken at night, and they are used as a kind of filter through which Volich takes digital colour photographs of slightly cloudy skies, thus creating a very dynamic relation between diverse techniques and motifs. The final object is created by using screen-print on metal, with visible colour raster. Such hybrid between analogue and digital photographs and print technique visually represents a reminder of the rich history of the medium of photography.
The central work of the exhibition is the large representation of the Lone Wolf, the most well-known inhabitant of the recently closed Split Zoo. The photograph was created during Volich’s long process of photo-documenting the slow decay of the zoo and of its inhabitants. Although he took numerous photographs and the whole process inevitably has documentary quality, Volich deliberately rejects narration and compresses the whole narrative into a single scene. The Lone Wolf becomes a symbol in this highly poetic version. Choice of that motif results from the artist’s exploration of relation between man and nature through myths, folklore and symbolic representations, started during his stay with the Pitjantjatjara community of central desert of Australia. The parallels that can be drawn from remote parts of Australia and the situation Volich had witnessed in Marjan Zoo are clearly noted in the title of the exhibition.
Although Volich primarily works with digital photography and fully uses post-production possibilities of digital media, final appearance of his works and his choice of motifs clearly show a sentimental note towards the old medium. His attitude might be best summarized in the writing by Želimir Koščević, one of Croatia’s best experts on photography: “ Every photograph comprises information of its origin and its global context. ... In the empire of photographic images everything is causally connected; the first photograph has announced the last one, and the last one reminds of the first one.” 2
About the author
Pete Volich is a Western Australian born visual artist working in the areas of photography, collage, drawing, and print based media. He is currently based in Split. He was educated at the Australian National University, Canberra School of Art. He has exhibited extensively both in Australia and Europe: Stills Gallery, Sydney; Gertrude Contemporary Art Space, Melbourne; Cologne Art Fair, Cologne; Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London and Broadstone Gallery, Dublin. In 2007 he underwent a mentorship with the Isaac Julien Studio in London. From 2011 to 2013 he lived remotely in the APY (Anangu, Pitjantjatjara, Yankatjatjara) lands in the Fregon Community (central desert of Australia, one hour drive from Uluru) where he managed an indigenous art centre. Examples of Volich’s work have been seen in numerous publications such as Runway, The Death issue, 2009, editor Daniel Mudie Cunningham; Photofile: Distortions issue 84; Louise Tegart, Celebrations of the grotesque; the new sublime in Australian contemporary practice, Eyeline issue 68; Jemima Kemp, Someone to watch over you, Portrait 2013, National Portraiture Gallery, Carrie Kibbler and the latest edition of Artbanks,Sturgeon 2016. He recieved a New Work Grant from Australia Council for the Arts in 2010 and 2016.
The exhibition is financed by the City of Split and Australia Council for the Arts.
(1) A Short History of Photography was originally published in Die Literarische Welt of 18.9., 25.9. and 2.10. 1931.
(2) Želimir Koščević, Fotografska slika: 160 godina fotografske umjetnosti. Školska knjiga, Zagreb. 2000. p 16.