A D R I E N N E M A R T Y N
I am a New Zealand photographer based in Wellington who photographs mainly interiors of cultural buildings in a state of emptiness. Some buildings are earthquake prone awaiting structural strengthening and others have has their objects removed in order to reveal their interiors without intrusive objects. I have played with this idea in different ways using several heritage buildings by photographing elements of rooms stripped to accommodate my arrangements of objects.
I was born in Wellington and brought up in Invercargill where at the age of eighteen I left to live in Dunedin to learn photographic and darkroom practices from commercial photographers. In 1970 I returned to Invercargill where I was a photographer's assistant for Campbell Studios. From there I worked as a freelance darkroom technician for fashion photographer Euan Sarginson in Christchurch who encouraged me to take photographs using his expensive camera equipment. After a brief stint with advertising photographer Cyril Taft in Auckland I secured a position in 1972 at the Sydney Morning Herald as a darkroom technician and studio photographer. During this time I became involved with the Sydney Women’s Film Group, and contributed documentary photographs to the movie 'Home', feminist newspapers, magazines and books including feminist poet Kate Jennings seminal work ‘Mother I’m Rooted – an anthology of Australian women poets’.
Upon returning to Dunedin I briefly attended Otago Polytechnic School of Art in 1977 where I was introduced to the works of Vermeer by art history lecturer Raymond Ward and abstract painting. From this experience I explored abstraction in landscape and architectural subjects which were exhibited at Bosshard Galleries Dunedin. I returned to Sydney in 1979 to attend the Australian Centre for Photography workshops in Paddington. Encouraged by Australian photographers Greg Weight and Robert McFarlane I committed to exploring portraiture based on my own ideas of what I wanted a portrait to be.
In 1980 I set up a photography studio in Moray Place, Dunedin where I continued photographing portraits of friends and commissions. During this time I also produced ‘Surfaces’, a series of abstract photographs on the play of light on stucco textures. Prints from these early portrait and architectural studies are represented in permanent collections including Te Papa Museum of New Zealand Auckland Art Gallery Dunedin Public Art Gallery and The Dowse. In 1986 NAG/Te Papa commissioned me to photograph ‘Artist Portraits’ for its permanent collection and in 1988 Dunedin Public Art Gallery mounted and toured a survey exhibition of my portrait work covering 1979 - 1987 period. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanied this touring exhibition.
During the late 1980’s I juxtaposed architectural elements with portraiture creating ‘Absence: Presence’ using my images of the interior stairwell of the vacated Excelsior Hotel, Dunedin with theatrically styled portraits of my friends. The images from this body of work were shown at Artspace, Auckland 1990.
From 1995 to 1998 I lived in Melbourne returning to NZ to live in Napier where I photographed taonga and environs at the Otatara Pa Historic Reserve, Hawkes Bay. ‘Otatara’ was shown at Hawkes Bay Museum 1999. I became Artist in Residence 2000 at Waikato Museum exploring volcanic history of Lake Taupo – a selection of images from this residency were shown and collected by Waikato Museum.
In 2005 I gained my MFA (1st Class Hons.) from Elam School of Art, University of Auckland, where I created a series of analogue/digital images of the Louvre, which I photographed in 1990, and Auckland Art Gallery that investigated the power of the frame. I digitally erased the content of classical and contemporary paintings within their frames drawing attention to how museum and gallery display devices can influence the viewers perception of art. This project ‘Looking for the Subject’ was exhibited at City Gallery Wellington in 2007.
Since 2017 I have extended this body of work by photographing gallery and museum interiors devoid of their objects. I focused on the inter-play of light on the empty surfaces to show gallery interiors as art works in themselves. The spaces include Anderson Park Art Gallery, Sarjeant Gallery, Robert McDougall Art Gallery and Southland Museum.
In 2019 I ventured into new territory photographing the decaying interiors of hotel rooms at Bluff's Club Hotel. Eight images from this series were exhibited with poetry written by Cilla McQueen stamped and displayed on silk sheets. Our exhibition, titled 'Gossamer', was presented at Miharo Gallery, Invercargill in 2020.
I continue to photograph heritage building interiors including The Southland Times and Cambridge Arcade which I did immediately prior to their demolition. Future exhibitions of new work include images of the three desolate lighthouse keepers dwellings on Dog Island south of Bluff, stripped rooms at the heritage Golder Cottage in Upper Hutt and gallery rooms at the earthquake prone Aigantighe Gallery in Timaru. My latest exhibition 'Durham Street | as she left' presents a series of images of the interior of Marilynn Webb's villa as she left it before she died. This series opens at Olga Gallery Dunedin on 28 January 2022.
From April to June 2022 I shall be residing in Dunedin as Artist in Residence at Dunedin School of Art.