Sean Fennessy on Jeff Wall



Jeff Wall expects his photographs to be viewed large. Enormous, in fact, and preferably mounted as transparencies in light boxes to enhance their colour and detail.

It’s therefore difficult to faithfully reproduce Wall’s highly meticulous tableaux on paper. As a souvenir of the current exhibition at NGV Australia, however, Jeff Wall Photographs does this well. Across nearly ninety pages, the book gives a generous and stylish overview of the Canadian artist’s first major retrospective in the Southern Hemisphere.

Essays by Gary Dufour, Chief Curator, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Isobel Crombie, Senior Curator, Photography, NGV and New Zealand academic Mark Bolland provide thoughtful reflections on Wall’s life and work. Of course, it is essential to see the works in situ to fully appreciate their scale and quality. Wall’s most famous photograph, The Destroyed Room (1978) which opens the exhibition, literally glows, inviting closer inspection of its intensely detailed composition. The vast digital montage A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai) (1993) and the deep black tones of Night (2001) do the same.

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