Profile: Greg Ackland

Many of us have a tendency to romanticise the landscape. We are preoccupied with finding a perfect scene or capturing that flawless view.

Many of us have a tendency to romanticise the landscape. We are preoccupied with finding a perfect scene or capturing that flawless view. This is not the case with photographer Greg Ackland – his images are often of uninspiring places, as he documents the experience of being there rather than the picturesque view, “I’m interested in elevating the uninteresting to get people to ponder why they might project a cultural view or a personal kind of heroic view of a landscape onto what largely isn’t.” Ackland originally studied painting at art school before switching to photography in his final year,“That rich history of painting has really informed what I have done,” explains Ackland. “I am interested in the notion of a landscape and what it actually is.” Ackland is particularly fascinated with lookouts and this idea that we visit a lookout, and view the landscape, as a projection, one that has been decided for us, and ignore the landscape we are actually in. It’s this notion of experience, that you can’t truly know what the view, or the landscape, is without actually being in it, that drives much of Ackland’s work. “That’s the beauty for me. I have identified that the heroic landscape is not a view; it is actually being there. And so that’s what I have been interested in for a long time.” Ackland acknowledges that because the landscape genre has a long tradition and many artists in varied disciplines have tackled it, it can present challenges. However he works conceptually and believes that while he might depict something that looks like something else, the conceptual meaning behind the way he approaches it is very different. “I’m trying to put these subtle things in there to try and jar people into saying `Hang on it’s not romanticism at all, it’s actually something else’.” Ackland’s latest exhibition at Hill Smith Gallery continues his exploration into the Victorian Alps. For the last four or five years, every July, Ackland has visited the Alps and created works. “I am revisiting the same location and just seeing each year how I have changed and how that is impacting on what I am noticing about the same landscape.” The exhibition showcases a series of black and white and a series of coloured photographs of the same location. “I am really interrogating this idea of the romantic. I am trying to get them to play off against each other. It adds to this idea of the cultural landscape.” These ideas of landscape and identifying a sense of place are things that most people can identify with. We might have a favourite place that’s not particularly special to anybody else but it’s special to us because of an emotional tie. “It’s the idea that the landscape itself might not be that important but an experience there or a memory makes it far more important than it is.” Greg ackland currently has work in Full Spectrum, which is touring regional South Australia until July 2015. He is also showing new work at Hill Smith Gallery from Thursday, February 20 until wednesday, march 19 hillsmithgallery.com.au 1. Greg Ackland – Alter Ego 2. Greg Ackland – Inconclusive Position 3. Greg Ackland – Scyppan 4. Greg Ackland – The Spectator