Robert Mann Gallery is pleased to announce Vanity, a new body of work from Australian photographer, Murray Fredericks, in the artist’s first exhibition in the United States and with the gallery. Murray Fredericks’ ongoing relationship with Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, where the series Vanity is captured, commenced in 2003, and consists of more than twenty journeys to the lake where he photographs for weeks at a time in the vast and boundless landscape. Fredericks is not interested in documenting the literal forms of the landscape, but instead views it as medium in itself that has the potential to convey the emotional response of his experience and results in images that are utterly sublime. In infinite variations of color and clouds, sky and salt, light and landscape, tied together by an unbroken horizon, the viewer can step outside themselves, even just for a moment, to realize the powerful sensation of calm that nature can bestow on the anxieties inherent to the human condition.
This new body of work stems from Fredericks’ renowned Salt series that began in 2001. While standing alone in the darkness away from his campsite, he became acutely aware that the boundary between his physical body and the environment in which he stood seemed to soften and become less defined. Fredericks felt a connection to something that seemed to exist beyond his conscious mind - a memory that stayed with him and defined his pursuit of landscape imagery.
With the mirror as the symbol of narcissism, and vanity its driving force, Fredericks considers the mirror “emblematic of our obsession with ourselves, individually, and collectively.” “In the ‘Vanity’ series,” he says, “rather than reflecting our own ‘surface’ image, the mirror is positioned to draw our gaze out and away from ourselves, into the environment, driving us towards an emotional engagement with light, color and space.” He removes the search to find oneself in the work and instead takes the viewer on a journey to the soft light of dawn and dusk at Lake Eyre with an inch of salt-laden water reflecting the sky, giving momentary access to something else; an unparalleled emptiness in the landscape where an image presents itself out of nothing.
Fredericks believes that it is the inherent vanity and obsession with individualism that carries humankind carelessly into the Anthropocene era in which we live, constructed by a profusion of evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans. The Vanity series is an escape from and rejection of this human intervention, focusing on the power and importance of nature. Fredericks’ mirrors act like a portal to ‘something else,’ something purer.
The works in Vanity offer a humbling look into the vastness of the lake and make humans seem insignificant. Fredericks utilizes two mirrors, completely disrupting the spatial parameters and perceptual depth of vision. This causes the physical properties of the landscape to slowly morph, undergoing a mysterious inversion. The landscape becomes a reflection itself and our thought is temporarily suspended, the mind encountering a depth beyond its physical being. Fredericks’ process of immersing himself in solitude and repetitive actions create an approach that is integral to the experience of the image. Through beautifully subtle gradients of color and light, the pictures award viewers the freedom and meditative space he finds essential for our release from our own vanity.
The artist’s other major projects include Icesheet (2013), an intrepid journey to the Greenland icecap in his continued quest to explore the subjects of 'space' and the ‘void,’ and Hector (2011-16), striking black- and-white photographs that convey the dramatic weather systems of the Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory whereupon the subject becomes the storm itself rather than the scene in which it sits.
Fredericks has exhibited internationally in both individual and group exhibitions; his work is held in the major collections of The Museum of Sydney; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra; The Sir Elton John Collection, London; The Myer Collection; Australian Parliament House; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Valentino Collection; ABN Amro Collection, amongst others. Fredericks has produced two documentaries; the multi award winning and widely acclaimed Salt, and more recently Nothing on Earth, filmed in Greenland whilst producing Topophilia. Fredericks has also made a short film for this series, Vanity.
Murray Fredericks has been the recipient of numerous awards and is a regular finalist in Australia’s top photography prizes. In 2015, he received the People’s Choice Award for the Bowness Photography Prize, Monash Gallery of Art, was runner up in the Head-On Festival Landscape Prize, finalist in the JUWS Photography Award and named Australia’s Top Photographer in 2010. Murray Fredericks holds a Masters of Art and a Masters of Fine Art from the College of Fine Arts (UNSW), both based around landscape themes.