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Suellen Symons

Scrutiny in the detail rather than the politics, as these photographic works explore the Dead Sea via archive negatives.

Installation view of Lynne Roberts Goodwin's work at Kroneberg Wright Artists Projects; Photo Suellen Symons

The term 'dead calm' quickly evokes the eerie 1989 thriller that starred Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane, but here the Dead Sea by Lynne Roberts Goodwin captures that feeling of stillness before the storm, which has it own eerie isolation.

Roberts Goodwin work is displayed in a new exhibition closeupatadistance at the recently formed project space, Kroneberg Wright Artists Projects (KWAP) in East Sydney,


Donna West Brett describes ​the artist's briney landscape in the catalogue as ‘the endless floating of salt tablets around a technology tower on an “islet”.’ Roberts Goodwin has chosen to photograph in large format detail – and in broad daylight – the mountain range and the Dead Sea between Jordan and Israel to make it look almost like a tourist destination. The injustices are not pictured here, but are imagined like a cloud over the perfect aerial view.

She said her research has resulted from, ‘tales of migration, colonisation, tourism, industrialisation, erosion and archaeological finds [that] flow across the surface of the grid as a woven historical map of human conquest and destruction.’

As we climb to the upstairs gallery to view the oblique aerial view, what is striking is that the images of stillness, as West Brett writes, ‘belie the ongoing environmental destruction and human conflict over settlement rights that continue along its banks that lie between Palestine and Jordan.’

Roberts Goodwin’s etched negative images used archival negatives found in the American Colony Photo department in the Library of Congress Matson Collection in Washington, which is a rich source of historical images from the Middle East.

The scale of the still photographs is breathtaking at 240 X 150 cm, feeling like a life-size view out the window frame.

We are also presented with a video elevation combining two layers of composition – the last river that flows from the mountains at Ha Giang, and the other taken at altitude, at the end of the Himalayan Mountains on China and Vietnam’s border. 

We hear or sense humanity only in the video. Both the photographs and video are devoid of people, except in the found archive negatives converted into etchings. These people seem to be enjoying the Dead Sea’s calmness, or even flying above it as tourists.

Meanwhile, they/we are blissfully unaware of the 'troubles' – with our eyes wide-shut – to the land settlement war that plagues our sense of calm in TV news scoops or front-page newspaper atrocities.

The exhibition is ambitious, mesmerising and captivating, and the audience is drawn in to scrutinize every detail, totally enchanted.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Kroneberg Wright Artists Projects
91 Stanley St, East Sydney
15 September  - 8 October
Open Fri-Sat 12-5pm

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Suellen Symons is a Redfern (Sydney) based artist and photographer. Exhibiting since the 1980s, her work is held in public and private collections.