June 27 - July 8
John Beaton’s photographs celebrate transience by freezing humans in motion, exploring the effects of light and mist on land and cityscapes, and drawing nature into close focus. While the photos capture ephemeral moments, they also come together to reflect the world panoramically. Borders between individual and communal dissolve; boundaries of identity break down as statues assume human qualities and people’s fleeting actions become permanent art.
Elements of wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic of imperfect beauty characterised by asymmetry, intimacy, impermanence and natural processes, run through the photographs presented in this exhibition. Beaton’s artistic style of capturing a fleeting moment invites comparison with the wabi-sabi Japanese calligraphic motif of the enso – an asymmetrical circle drawn in a single stroke to reflect the moment of drawing rather than geometrical perfection. The enso visually manifests one’s true and innermost self.
In one of his prose pieces, featured in the exhibition, Beaton described the benefits he saw in the philosophy behind wabi-sabi. He encouraged others to “question what perfection means to us. Embrace the ephemerality of all things. Revel in the beauty of transience.”
These words reflect Beaton’s life, as well as his art. Remembered as a man who thought deeply and lived out his philosophy, finding beauty in unexpected places and taking joy in the present moment, Beaton helped and inspired his friends, family and colleagues. His last act, before his death in a car accident, was to photograph the sunrise over Yosemite National Park. A selection of these Yosemite photos is displayed in a room in the exhibition. Visitors can listen to a recording of the piece Last Sunrise, written in Beaton’s memory by his friend, pianist and composer Anthony Williams, while viewing the photographs. This multifaceted exhibition presents for the first time the work of a young Australian who united art and technical skill, depth and simplicity – John Beaton invites us all to question and to revel.
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