1 June – July 28 2002
Challenge Bank and Sue & Ian Bernadt Galleries
Max Pam (collection show)

The Art Gallery of Western Australia has an extensive collection of Max Pam photographs – some 185 in number.  As such, he is one of the Gallery’s most well represented artists. Combined with key loans from Max Pam (such as the recent moody, Henson-esque saturated-colour work), this exhibition put on public display for the first time much of this significant material. This ostensibly flagged the Gallery’s long-term commitment to Pam’s practice.

Max Pam, Asiatic Icon Decalogue (detail)E type photographic prints, 2000 Collection Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased with funds from Contemporary Art Group and Sir Claude Hotchin Art Foundation, Art Gallery Foundation.

While there had been numerous exhibitions of Pam’s work, internationally, nationally and within the State (the Human Eye Exhibition at the John Curtin Gallery being the most recent), his work, and location within our broader visual culture, had remained under-analysed/articulated. As arguably the State’s most high-profile photographer, this was of no small consequence.

It was this, therefore, that the Max Pam exhibition seeked to rectify. Itl “developed” an image of Pam’s work that foregrounds an ethics of picture making. It located his restless practice in terms that are structurally bound to the Australian experience. The body is the conduit of his travels and through this place is come to grips with. One might compare this with the work of William Eggleston whose connection with place came through de-populated landscapes that slowly generated an attachment. Pam on the other hand, sees place through people. They are, for him, global markers. In terms of debates about the politics of place in Western Australian visual culture, this is a significant pictorial interjection and needs focus on its specific nuances. Without it, his contribution would have remained invisible and the local scene emptied of someone who amounts to quite possibly the most successful aesthetically and ethically of our figurative artists.

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