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Bill Henson

Bill Henson 'Untitled' 2008–09

Bill Henson | Australia b.1955 | Untitled 2008–09 | Archival inkjet pigment print on paper, ed. 1/5 |104.5 x 155cm | Purchased 2010 with a special allocation from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

b. 1955 Australia 
Lives and works in Melbourne, Australia

Bill Henson is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists and holds a central position in contemporary Australian photography. For the last decade or more, he has presented exhibitions of diverse subjects in careful juxtapositions and combinations, including figures, classical statuary and ruins as well as land and seascapes. Henson’s exhibitions are unified by a distinctive sensibility, using the drama of highlights against the darkness characteristic of baroque or romantic painting.

Henson is interested in the broad references of his subjects rather than their specificity. This deliberate ambiguity is in conflict with the expectation that a photograph represents a particular moment and place. While Untitled 2008-09 and the other photographs made at the same time were taken in Southern Italy, this island stands for all such islands and what they might represent to the viewer’s imagination.

The composition is simple; the island is centred within the image, its cleft echoed by the clouds behind, and the outer edges darken in reminiscence of a nineteenth-century vignette. The entire plane is filled with detail, and Henson has carefully picked out the light on clouds, rock and water so that the whole photograph is animated and filled with portent.

Exhibitions (solo): Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2008 and 2010; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2007; ‘Bill Henson: Three Decades of Photography’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2005; Robert Miller Gallery, New York City, 2004. Exhibitions (group): ‘For Keeps: Sampling Recent Acquisitions 2006-2009’, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, 2009; ‘PERCEPCIONES. ITINERARIO SELECTIVO’, Fondos de Fotografía de la Colección Permanente, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain, 2007; ‘fables de l'identité’, Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, France, 2003; 46th Biennale of Venice, Italy, 1995.