Canvas :: Murray Frederick’s Salt

October 31st 2011

I didn’t walk into the Australian Centre for Photography intending to review Murray Fredericks Salt exhibition. It was Saturday on Oxford Street and as I was perusing strappy sandals, I thought I’d mix in a little culture to make myself feel better about purchases I couldn’t afford. Maybe I should always view art: spontaneously, because I can’t remember ever feeling this awe-struck by photography.

Of course nothing about Fredericks’ photographs is spontaneous. In fact, they take about five hours for one photo to be captured. Eight years in the making, Salt is the results of Fredericks’ continuous solo camping trips to the centre of Lake Eyre, where the salt plains lie. Here he sets up a number of different cameras, leaving them for hours on end to capture the landscape and weather’s movement.

I walked into the gallery to find a massive canvas filled with an infinite landscape of red raw ground puckered with tessellating salt patterns. The sky was an expansive, overcast canopy over a small tent, and abandoned bicycle was the only thing marking this dystopian horizon. And I thought to myself ‘hey Australian Centre for Photography, cool watercolour exhibit.’

How wrong I was. They were not watercolours, but phenomenal photographs. I was walking up to the works trying to find brushstrokes, because I could not believe photos could look so luminous, so painterly.

Fredericks’ focus is on the definition of space. He photographs landscapes, not merely as the background, but subject of the work. He takes what some might think is a ‘boring’ vista of endless, empty land and just sets it alight with such colour, you couldn’t imagine. Fredericks takes the uninhabited and fills it with this quiet yet powerful energy that resides in the clouds, the expanse of the land, the movement of light.

If there was an exhibit that makes you appreciate the flush and vitality of the Australian desert and especially light and colour in general, this is it. Afterwards I found myself looking up at the sky, wondering how Fredericks had captured what I thought could never be reproduced.

Go and check out Salt by Murray Fredericks at ACP. You will not regret it.

It’s showing until November 19th at the Australian Centre for Photography, 257 Oxford St.


Read more from Nick La Rosa