The Art Gallery of New South Wales organised the first survey of the photographic work of Bill Henson (b1955). The exhibition brought together for the first time a number of the artist’s important series so that the major themes of his work from the previous 30 years could be studied.
Henson’s importance lies in his constant revaluation and reinvigoration of both subject and form. As a photographer his technical abilities are such that the work approaches both painterliness and the cinematic, bringing into play resonances of the formal and classical alongside the gritty, casual violence of the everyday. Henson’s work, however, eludes simple classification because he uses the static medium of photography in order to forcefully accumulate, in the viewer’s mind, a series of elliptical narratives or imaginative points – all of which remain highly ambiguous.
The exhibition was accompanied by a substantial fully illustrated book published by Scalo Zurich/AGNSW – Mnemosyne. This was the first publication on Henson’s work providing a thorough overview of the artist and writing about him.
Early works included selected images from 1974, 1975, and 1978. Series consisted of the Untitled sequences of 1977 and 1979. Fragments from the major series Untitled 1980/82, Untitled 1983/84, Untitled 1985/86, Untitled 1987/88 (the first cut screens), Paris Opera Project 1991, the 1990s cut screens, and selections from Henson’s various series from 1997–2004 were included. About 350 works were in the exhibition which was jointly selected by the artist and Judy Annear.