A new exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia by internationally recognised photographer, Trent Parke will explore universal ideas from a deeply personal perspective. Titled The Black Rose, the exhibition is neither a survey nor a retrospective but an exhibition which is a single work of art, one which has taken seven years for the artist to realise.
The most complex and ambitious project of Parke’s career, the catalyst for the exhibition was a tragic incident in the artist’s past. When he was aged about twelve, he witnessed his mother die suddenly from an asthma attack.
“As a result I blanked out those first twelve years of my life and much more,” said Parke. “After sidestepping the issue for twenty-seven years, a chance incident forced my hand and I began writing and taking photographs as I sought to get those memories back.”
Comprising several hundred photographs and moving image works, The Black Rose promises to be an immersive experience for the viewer. It represents Parke’s attempt to reclaim his own memories and delve into the bigger issues affecting us all: birth, death, pain, loss and memory.
“By stripping himself bare to reveal his own imperfections, Parke pursues the bigger meaning of life and in doing so he challenges us, to reflect on our own lives,” says Nick Mitzevich, Director, Art Gallery of South Australia.
Parke is a master photographer and rarely shoots digitally, preferring the ‘magic’ of traditional means of photography. In his quest to uncover his memories of his mother and childhood, Parke photographed details of the natural world and incidents from everyday life. These took on greater significance and symbolic meaning as his project progressed and became the basis of a complex narrative.
“The Black Rose is a powerful exhibition. The myriad of animals, birds, insects and landscapes we encounter remind us that in the world of Trent Parke, nothing is ordinary or insignificant,” says Mitzevich.
In 2007 Parke and his photographer wife Narelle Autio and two young children swapped life in inner-city Sydney for a house by the beach in Adelaide. This move became the catalyst for The Black Rose project, as living in Adelaide allowed Trent the time for reflection.
“Over the following seven years The Black Rose evolved into a project of epic proportions and cinematic ambition, and through it he eventually reclaimed some of those childhood memories,” says Julie Robinson, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photography, Art Gallery of South Australia.
Newcastle-born Parke, began his photographic career as a leading sports photographer – for five years he covered the tours of the Australian cricket team. By 1999 Parke had realised though, that he wanted to pursue a career as an artist and, in the fifteen years since, has created several major bodies of work, which explore Australian culture and contemporary life from his personal perspective.
Parke has received numerous international and national awards, including the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 2005 and the Olive Cotton Award for excellence in photographic portraiture in 2013. He is the only Australian member of the prestigious Magnum Photos co-operative. Magnum established in 1947, is dedicated to photojournalism and documentary photography that expresses a fundamental concern for humanity.
“My photography has always been about asking questions. I am on an endless quest to find out why.” – Trent Parke
Trent Parke: The Black Rose
Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Exhibition continues to 10 May 2015
Image: Trent Parke, Australia, born 1971, Cockatoo, Newcastle, New South Wales, 2011, © Trent Parke/Magnum Photos