Cover image of the review
Barbara Campbell, Soft Part Colours, Eastern Curlew Bill series, 2015, watercolour on Canson paper on wooden stretcher frame; Numenius Madagascariensis (Linnaeus 1766) Curlew Colour Skin, 2022, specimen collected New South Wales, Australia c. 1870 [Macleay Collections: NHB.4591], the University of Sydney. Detail of works in Barbara Campbell—ex avibus, 2022, Geelong Gallery, © Barbara Campbell. Photographer: Andrew Curtis

Barbara Campbell—ex avibus

26 Mar 2022
Geelong Gallery 5 Mar - 19 Jun 2022

Barbara Campbell wants us to follow the birds. Her current show at the Geelong Gallery, ex avibus, retraces the global migratory patterns of wading shorebirds—a new instalment in her longstanding commitment to reconceptualise the (im)possibilities of artistic expression. In this exhibition, these possibilities are doubly explored through an emphasis on the agency of the gallery visitor who, admitted into Campbell’s constructed ebb and flow of a natural homing route, experiences the shorebird’s journey as they walk through the gallery.

Despite ex avibus’s emphasis upon a forward trajectory, I experience the exhibition somewhat back to front. Not having been to the Geelong Gallery for a couple of years, I decide to walk to the rear of the building and stop by the permanent collection before visiting Campbell’s exhibit. Swooning over the mammoth Juan Davila and Fredrick McCubbin paintings that share a name—A Bush Burial—I realise that I have already had my first encounter with Campbell’s show. Displayed directly below McCubbin’s renowned work sits a cabinet filled with several minimal watercolour paintings placed atop a two-dimensional photogram print of an Eastern Curlew shorebird specimen. Ok, duh, I get it now! The show is sprawling throughout the entire gallery so as to emulate the journey of shorebirds migrating south. Now I’m on the right track—kind of (I’m still walking the wrong way).

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