28 November – 21 December 1996

Sydney artist, Paul Ferman, (born 1948) photographs details of nature then enlarges them almost beyond the point of abstraction. He frames his silver selenite prints in orderly groups to accentuate the visual rhythms between different natural forms. It is as though his groups of photographs of overblown rose blooms, split seed pods and shrivelled leaves are the outsized specimens contained in the collection of a surreal botanist. His underlying concept is to freeze an exaggerated sense of intimacy.

Many of his works have a dark, sinister aspect. In Ferman's hands, a shard of curling bark or a helmet-like pod can take on a menacing tone. For his show at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, when Ferman will be exhibiting his colour photographs for the first time, he has devised a series of stately set-ups involving an anthropomorphic cactus draped in lush costumes with "brooches" made from funnel-web spiders, poisonous snakes and other species of venomous wild-life. Presenting an uncomfortable combination of fertility and danger, he jokingly refers to these images as "death by decoration".

Also on show are Ferman's best known images, such as Love in the Eighties (a proudly phallic cactus which has virtually become a metaphor for the prickly sexual politics in the age of AIDS) and Calvin, a rampant cactus clad in designer underwear (wild nature versus constraining fashion). In both his sharp black & white photographs and his recent plush colour images, Paul Ferman captures humorous new symbols for contemporary morality, mixing prudery with prurience.

Since the late 1980's Paul Ferman has had several solo exhibitions in Australia and abroad: at the Galerie Anita Neugebauer in Basel, OPTS gallery in San Francisco and Pino Casagrande in Rome. His work has been included in group shows in Italy and the Netherlands, as well as at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queensland Art Gallery. Ferman's black & white serial photography can also be found in the collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Akenhurst Gallery in London and in private collections in Australia, Asia, Europe and America.

Jonathan Turner.

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