Justine Varga, Tachisme
⬤ Tolarno Galleries 4 Apr - 9 May 2020
The only way to access the exhibition is online. You type in your email address and are automatically added to the Tolarno Galleries’ mailing list along with a promise that the gallery “will not share your details with anyone else”. Underneath, a digital countdown is ticking away the days, hours, minutes and seconds left until the “viewing space” closes. Is anyone really keeping track of time at the moment? Perhaps it’s a bid to foster some sense of anticipation. The strategy worked wonders in the past. Famously, when Psycho (1960) was first screened at cinemas, Hitchcock required theatres to run a countdown in the foyer that periodically indicated the impending start of the film screening. Here, the sense of anticipation falls flat. The expectation of clicking and scrolling through an online exhibition doesn’t exactly scream exciting; but at least we get to see the work.
Once “logged in”, scrolling through the exhibition reveals a menagerie of text interspersed with images and bookended with YouTube links. In the first sentence we are introduced to Justine Varga as someone “known for her luminous photographs, some made with a camera and some without (and some made with a combination of the two)”. Above the text sits a press shot of Varga standing arms crossed in front of Photogenic Drawing (2018)—a photographic negative which earned her last year’s Dobell Drawing Prize. Below the text, brief and impressive lines list the awards Varga has received since 2013, notably the Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture in 2017, alongside a number of state collections that have acquired her work. This fodder, typically saved for a laminated file left on the front desk of a gallery, somehow is a focal point of the experience of this exhibition. The pages are now lifted out of their laminated sheets, transposed, exported and thinly spread onto the browser’s “viewing space”, nestled between the five new chromogenic prints part of Varga’s Tachisme series on the webpage.