The Black Rose transports viewers into a cloistered world of dark retrospective images by internationally renowned Adelaide-based artist Trent Parke. Offered in conjunction with the Adelaide Festival, the exhibition is overwhelming in size and ambition.
This exhibition is the culmination of a seven-year project that spanned one thousand rolls of film and created fourteen photography books. Parke refined his collection to create The Black Rose specifically for the Art Gallery of South Australia.
After moving to Adelaide from a turbulent Sydney with his family in 2007, Parke found the time and inspiration to explore his traumatic childhood through film photography. Parke lost the majority of his childhood memories around age twelve, after witnessing the sudden death of his mother from an asthma attack. Through The Black Rose he examined his fragmented memories.
Upon entering The Black Rose, viewers are presented with a three-wall, larger than life nature scene featuring Australian animals. The purposefully grainy, black and white images are at once familiar and unsettling. Each room was curtained off from the next with thick black fabric, creating a hint of macabre theatrics.
A series of nature and humanity scenes followed, often heavily manipulated by Parke. These explored themes of death, life, and the corrosive effects of time. Parke was not concerned with subtlety – presenting several images of dead, dying, and decaying animals to convey his message to the viewer. At times his ego was hard to overlook – he included his at-home developing tray as an installation piece.
His occasional colour pictures punctuated the exhibit, and contrasted against his black and white series. My favourite piece was Three Hundred Sixty Five Sunsets, taken in Adelaide in 2010 – 2011. The piece consists of individual pictures, placed chronologically against an entire wall. The contrast between an idyllic November evening sunset and a blue-tinged afternoon storm in August was quite poignant.
While I could not personally appreciate all of Parke’s pictures, I cannot deny that The Black Rose is a raw, emotive experience – though perhaps not for those faint of heart.
Reviewed by Nicola Woolford
Venue: The Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Season: 14 March – 10 May 2015
Admission: Free entry, 10am – 5pm daily