Cover image of the review

Bill Henson

22 Apr 2017
10 Mar - 27 Aug 2017

Even now, it is difficult to visit a Bill Henson exhibition without being burdened by the controversy that occurred at Roslyn Oxley9 just less than nine years ago. Stylistically, however, Henson has not changed his tack: the exhibition Bill Henson, part of the NGV’s Festival of Photography, is yet another rearticulation of his most recognisable qualities as an artist.

Bill Henson was the first exhibition to open for the festival, which also includes other contemporary photographers such as William Eggleston, Zoë Croggon, Ross Coulter and Patrick Pound. Running from 10 March to 27 August, the exhibition includes 23 large inkjet prints capturing—as Henson has for much of his career—pensive nude youths, coastal landscapes at sundown, moving water, ancient ruins, and public museum spaces.

Bill Henson, Untitled, inkjet print, 127.0 x 180.0 cm, ed. 1/5, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of William Donald Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2016.

The well-known Baroque qualities of Henson’s work employ chiaroscuro, while his pre-production methods are detectable in the staged nature of his youthful subjects. Henson also continues to experiment with cyan hues, creating bluish undertones that enhance subtleties of depth, the appearance of kinetics in water and the visceral qualities of human flesh. Further, despite the arrival of digital media, Henson’s post-production methods do not aim for crisp, detailed and high-resolution photographic tableaux, but large textured prints that follow a painterly tradition.

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