Songbirds are Everywhere
Exhibition: – 14 May 2011
36 Gosbell Street . Paddington
NSW 2021 Sydney
Songbirds are Everywhere
13 April to 14 May 2011
“Ferran’s practice…focusing on incidental details and overlooked subjects, combining the indexical authority of the photograph with the sensorial resonance of symbolic objects and materials, brings history up against itself, up against its desire to differentiate itself from the now. Ferran’s work instead insists on confronting us with the past’s tenacious persistence.
Geoffrey Batchen,The ground, the air catalogue 2008
Like many people Anne Ferran keeps a close eye on the birds around her - would give a lot to understand their social life, but mostly it remains a mystery. She made a discovery last year that intensified this interest: the on-line existence of the paintings of the artists of the First Fleet, in the collection of the Natural History Museum in London. The First Fleet artists painted the birds they encountered on arrival and that shared their strange new world more often than any other subject.
The paintings are detailed and descriptive, full of character and individuality. Ferran found herself imagining the encounters that might occur between races or species of birds that were new to one another. This led to a video work, Songbirds are Everywhere, where brief encounters play out between small bird shapes based on the original paintings.
Most of the artists gave their painted subjects an English common name; some have persisted while others have fallen into disuse. Ferran’s regret for the loss of bird names like agile creeper, bold vulture, doubtful thrush, velvet-faced crow is real, but mild compared to the loss of the indigenous Eora names that at least one artist made a point of recording. Her photographs of small nets flung into the air preserve a few of these obsolete English names as titles.
Anne Ferran has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally since the 1980's, and is highly regarded as an artist, academic and writer. Using contemporary photomedia as a means to recall a vanished past, she works with the residues of Australian colonial history, developing visual records which examine matrilineal heritage, working with the often meagre evidence of their lives. Ferran’s work is held in most major Australian public collections including those at the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Monash University, Art Gallery of South Australia, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 2009 she was awarded winner of International Artist Prize including an exhibition at Higashikawa Photography Museum, Japan. Her most recent exhibition at Stills Gallery was Lost to Worlds in 2009.