Gollings: The history of the built world, now showing in Sydney

John Gollings, The Lotus Building (Studio 505), Changzhou, China, 2013, pigment ink-jet print Courtesy the artist and Sydney Living Museums, Sydney

Australian architectural photographer John Gollings has an extraordinary eye for capturing the lines, forms and shapes of the built world and the landscapes they embody, in a way that encapsulates the inherent beauty of every mark that exists between the subject and its surrounds creating exquisite representations of ancient and contemporary life.

Gollings is one of Australia’s most prolific photographic artists whose career began at Melbourne University where he undertook architectural studies, he worked as a freelance fashion photographer for a time and later found his passion for architectural photography whereby he explores the cultural construction of social spaces and how humans have designed and built their worlds over time.

For more than five decades Gollings has viewed the world through the lens of his camera in an attempt to capture the intrinsic nature of sacred places; rock art sites, temples and ruins, among other fascinating built constructions in Australia and around the world including homes on suburban landscapes, contemporary dwellings and iconic city monuments, landmarks, and arts and cultural centres. And the results are magnificent.

John Gollings, Nawarla Gabarnmang, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, 2015, pigment ink-jet print. Courtesy the artist and Sydney Living Museums

Gollings’ photographic imaginations feature stunning renditions of the diverse built structures that exist in the world we live in including the unique foyer made of lengths and layers of repurposed wood at Hotel Hotel in the ACT, aerial shots of Gold Coast skyscrapers outlined by endless coastlines, mid-century residential housing quietly nestled in suburbia, centuries-old Berber settlements in the mountains of Libya, ancient rock shelters of Nawarla Gabarnmang in Arnhem Land, and the sculpture-like form of The Lotus Building in Wujin, China with its illuminated petals caught in perfect reflection on the surface of an artificial lake.

John Gollings, Kabaw Berber Granary, Kabaw, Libya, 2005, pigment ink-jet print. Courtesy the artist and Sydney Living Museums

Sydney Living Museums notes, “While Gollings is well known for his documentation of new buildings and cityscapes, this retrospective exhibition situates the images within the broader context of his photographic practice. His distinctive visual style conveys a personal or physical connection with the structure. By employing a range of compositional techniques and visual effects, Gollings portrays architecture with personality rather than as static monuments.”

“My purpose is to identify the quintessential elements and intrinsic dignity of architectural works and to convey these often, nebulous attributes through the visual power of form. I try to encapsulate this in a single image,” says Gollings.

Until 26 April, visitors to the Museum of Sydney can explore the breathtaking compilation of 65 works by Gollings presented in ‘The history of a built world’, a travelling exhibition. It is the first survey show of the artists 50-year career. The exhibition was launched at Melbourne’s Monash Gallery of Art in 2017 and since then has toured internationally in India, to Brisbane’s Queensland Centre for Photography and to Whitehorse Artspace in Victoria.

And if you miss the show in Sydney you have one last chance to see it at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum in Lilydale, Victoria from 23 May until 2 August 2020.

Visit the Sydney Living Museums website to see what’s on in and around Sydney across its host venues, which includes Rose Seidler House, The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks among other heritage listed houses and museums.

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