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A return to our lost forests in an exhibition for the senses

A return to our lost forests in an exhibition for the senses

Photography moves beyond the two dimensional in Lest We Go Ashore, Shaun Matthew’s first solo exhibition, opening at Toi Pōneke, 31 July. With the addition of sound and scent Matthew’s work constructs an imagined memory of Aotearoa’s once isolated forests, 70 million years in the making.

These new photographs re-imagine our unique forests and rich ecosystems prior to settlement and colonisation, embracing complexity in growth, decay and regeneration. Lest We Go Ashoreprovides a space for contemplation of our forests in the hope of reconnecting with them.

Shaun Matthews is a Wellington based photographer who is originally from London. In 2002 he made a life changing decision to move to New Zealand after meeting his partner.

New Zealand’s native forests inspired Matthews to extend his keen interest in photography and the landscape. The green belt, parks and reserves that are so easily accessed and experienced, became rich expansive sites for his creative photographic practice.

“As a photographer my primary interest lies in landscape. It is hard to escape from our normal perceptions and engage with our forests as living and changing organisms. I admire their seemingly chaotic nature and the way they are continually regenerating and renewing themselves”.

A majority of the images needed a long exposure or a particular light, and it is this calm, peaceful delay that allows Matthews to absorb the surroundings – the birdsong, and the smells of these forest remnants. “You can’t help but become immersed in what can sometimes seem like our ancient past.”

Arts Advisor, Jodie Dalgleish says, “art historians and theorists have long talked about photography as a mode of occupation and possession: here Shaun Matthews turns this around nicely when he takes his camera into stands of our native rainforest and imagines a time past, before colonisation, and burn-offs.”

These works are a continuation of Shaun’s previous work, presenting New Zealand’s forests beyond the picturesque and seeking to re-imagine these unique spaces in a more affecting way.

The sounds and smells of the forest will enter the gallery through recordings and collections from the forest floor. In all his work Shaun is intending to capture a sense of place. “These are places with long history and much meaning, and I want to capture that in my images.”

Shaun graduated earlier this year from Massey University with a Bachelor of Design in Photography, achieving First Class Honours. He has previously exhibited in group exhibitions: Locale, 2010 and Light & Truth, 2011, both at Toi Pōneke, Passing By Nature at Blackmore Jean Gallery, 2010 and Alt: Contemporary photographers explore alternative processes, at The Engine Room and Photospace Gallery, 2009.

Lest We Go Ashore opens at 5.30pm on Thursday 31 July at Toi Pōneke, 61 Abel Smith Street, Wellington. The exhibition runs from 1-23 August 2014.


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