Opening speech by Ben Edwards, CEO St John of God Murdoch Hospital.
From Curator Connie Petrillo
Brad Rimmer is interested in how our personal history, experiences and emotions shape us, how we arrive at a time in our lives where we can find a comfortable balance between looking back and looking ahead, and how our sensory archive collects sounds, music, smells, colours and shapes which trigger memories almost cinematically.
In 1981, in limbo between leaving the Wheatbelt of Western Australia for the city, or staying, Rimmer hung around and worked on the wheat bins in the middle of somewhere, in the north-eastern wheat belt.
In 2010 after numerous trips to the Wheatbelt, the exhibition of a major body of work and the publication of the monograph Silence, he still felt the project still incomplete. Sketchy remnants of a personal history in the Wheatbelt were still present, a personal history which kept resurfacing in his mind. With further exploration, the 2019 series Nature Boy was the result – a photographic book project based around a collection of short stories set in his late teenage years, the last few years he spent in the Wheatbelt, before moving to Perth in 1982. Nature Boy continued his search into the ambiguous experience of collecting memory. He is never detached from his subjects, and the making of this series was no different. The journey led him to a space where through his subjects’ personal stories, he quietly relived his own. He says, “You cannot be untouched by a landscape of absence. An unforgiving land of Mallee and Eucalyptus woodlands and red earth on the edge of the grain belt, where decades of over cropping and droughts create struggle which changes people, mentally and physically.”
The memory of impacting incidents and this landscape still resonate with the artist today, like the red earth staining everything in its wake. Events taken for granted while testing the fragile line between life and death, in becoming a man, struggling with the timeless question of “should I stay or should I leave,” are all part of finding your place in a small rural fringe community. It’s a personal history that speaks to us all, including the long-term effects of a single action on subsequent generations continuing to resonate in memories.
Over the years Rimmer has returned to the places where he worked as a young man on the wheat bins. The subjects in his photographs are local young people, the same age he was in 1981. His meetings with them are brief and intense, and as they surrender to the portrait you can feel the sense of integrity and honesty he must have felt as a teenager, though the subjects have no direct relationship with his past. The people in these photographs own their own histories and their presence speaks of resilience and a personal human condition. Each one is creating their own story, making choices, collecting and storing their own memories.
In 2017, Rimmer received the Artsource Studio Mondial residency in Basel Switzerland. The images created during that time formed the basis for the series Don’t Look Down. Though scenic vistas in the Alps are photographed by tourists every day, Rimmer sought to alter these views, and thereby question the experience of what we already know in our collective memories. By deliberately inverting the image into an unnatural colour palette, the landscapes become foreign and unsettling.
This exhibition is currently on show at St John of God Murdoch Hospital with limited access due to Covid-19 restrictions. To purchase works by Brad Rimmer, please contact Art Collective WA, or for books, contact T&G Publishing.
Connie Petrillo, St John of God Health Care Group Art Curator
Numerous national and corporate art collections have acquired Rimmer’s work, including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Gallery of Australia, the Wesfarmers Collection, Artbank, St John of God Health Care and Murdoch University.
Brad Rimmer is represented by Art Collective WA: www.artcollectivewa.com.au
Books by Brad Rimmer are published by T&G Publishing: www.tgpublishing.com.au
Silence Series 2010
The visual dialogue in Silence has an almost hypnotic quietness and sense of melancholic introspection. It is a poetic search for community, its strengths and weaknesses laid bare. The project evolved gradually over the years into a deeply personal and contemplative vision of the Western Australian rural communities where the photographer was raised.
Rimmer has always been interested in the history and integrity of place while ensuring his images bear witness to its realness.
Silence alludes to the shifts in rural expansion and its demise. Where the once insular town has slowly lost its youth, its lifeblood, it now exists between the ebb and flow of memory and reality. With the changes to the economic well-being of the nation and the world, this theme has become even more relevant and poignant.
Silence is also about the reality of remoteness, the disengagement from a larger whole, a shared community history, anticipation and hopelessness in equal measure. It is also about
shared community history, anticipation and hopelessness in equal measure. It is also about maintaining secrets – not the cloak-and- dagger or neighborhood variety, but cultural secrets which define a place and its people, their choices and the consequences.
By documenting this region, Rimmer gives back something of himself, and rediscovers that one remains intrinsically linked to one’s heritage through a shared history of place and the inherent understanding of its condition even after a long absence.
Paola Anselmi, Perth Australia.
Nature Boy Series 2019
A sequel to Australian photographer Brad Rimmer’s series Silence (2009), Nature Boy probes at the essence of rural Australia and the emotional impact of the natural landscape on individual psyches. Raw, yet poetic narratives conjure the late adolescent years of a young man wrestling with whether to stay or leave his remote country homeland for the lure of the city and so much more. A coming-of-age account the elegant mix of observation and heartfelt reminiscence are almost autobiographical, and hint to the nascent sensibilities of the young Rimmer as an artist.
Don’t Look Down Series 2019
From ancient times to the present, the Alps have had mythological, spiritual and romantic significance. Recognisable peaks, like the Matterhorn, have become trademarks for chocolate companies and the like; their rugged profiles filtering into our everyday lives, even in places far away. Over the past century, advances in engineering have made access to viewing platforms easy in the Alps, and now thousands of tourists line up to photograph these scenic vistas every day. For his series Don’t Look Down, Rimmer sought to alter these views, and thereby question the experience of what we already know in our collective memories. By deliberately inverting the image into an unnatural colour palette, the landscapes become foreign and unsettling.