Bill Henson

Untitled 2000-2001,
Type C colour photograph
104.0 x 154.0 cm
signed, dated and inscribed with title (lower right) and numbered 'JPC SH101 N14 1/5' (lower left)

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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (Gallery ref # 130)
Acquired from the above

Bill Henson's bewitching photographs unite formal and classical representation with the gritty drama of the everyday. In 'Untitled 2000-2001' a girl at the crossroad between childhood and adulthood emerges from the darkness and gazes away from the viewer. Occupying the ambiguous space of adolescence, the girl is emblematic of the complexity of human existence: both innocent and wise, she appears both ready for what the future holds and overwhelmed by it. In this work, Henson's refined chiaroscuro has been used to great effect, evoking both the painterly and the cinematic. Beautiful, compelling and confronting, the work captures a universal essence, according the viewer with a heightened awareness of what it is to be alive.

  • Untitled 2000-2001

Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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'Henson’s work is a celebration of the amoral. He makes no judgements, takes no positions, addresses no issues and yet reveals all manner of human instincts, intuitions and imaginings. His work and its inviting intrigue compel us to contemplate the imponderable and to wonder at the impenetrable. As such they are revelations of the imagination made seductively tangible but never fully complete or comprehensible.' (Edmund Capon on Bill Henson, 2004)

Bill Henson is one of Australia’s leading photographers. He has exhibited for over forty years in Australia and internationally, with his first major show coming at the age of just nineteen at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Whether working with figures, landscapes or architecture, Henson’s theatricality, masterful handling of light and willingness to experiment with printing processes yield rich, painterly surfaces that have left an indelible mark on the history of photography.

Writings on Henson abound with literary comparisons from Marcel Proust to W.G. Sebald, the common denominator being the belief that the body is an artistic medium. Whether candidly capturing the lives of ordinary people in Melbourne’s CBD as a photographic embodiment of Baudelaire’s flâneur or in his staged and highly theatrical tableaux vivant images exploring youth and sexuality, Henson is unrelenting in his quest to document the totality of human experience from the depths of boredom to the peaks of ecstasy.

In 1995, Henson represented Australia at the 46th Venice Biennale with his unique and highly celebrated ‘cut-screen’ photographic works. In 2005, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, staged a survey of Henson’s work that travelled to the National Gallery of Victoria in 2006 to unprecedented crowds. In 2006, too, he staged his second major international solo exhibition, Twilight, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In recent years, the Art Gallery of New South Wales held a show dedicated to his Cloud Landscapes, and in 2017 he showed at the National Gallery Victoria as part of their Festival of Photography. His work is the subject of two extensive monographs: Lux et Nox, 2002, and Mnemosyne, 2005, both published by Scalo, Switzerland.