“Square Scapes” is photographer Simon Bernhardt’s latest offering, following on from his previous publication, “Polaroid Holiday”, and continues to explore his fascination with the minutiae of the urban wilderness. A willingness to search for beauty in the most unlikely places is demonstrative of a resolutely determined aesthete and his works is openly referential towards friend and mentor the great Australian painter to whom this body of work is reverently dedicated.
Like Jeffrey Smart, Bernhardt’s subjects are the overlooked, the commonplace, the bog ordinary, that come to life, assume a life, under the stringent interpretation of the artist’s gaze. The desire to make us see what is in front of us, properly and for the first time, is surely the yardstick by which to measure true artistic temperament and is transparently this photographer’s raison d’etre.
What is obvious about these photographs, subject matter aside, is the rigour and precision with which they are created. There is, in their realisation, evidence of a strong desire to make sense of the world, to create order in the midst of disorder, and to share that vision.
Bernhardt’s subjects are meticulously sought out and researched. The ordinary-ness requires a patience and determination that is anything but that. Extraneous details are eschewed. Framing is exacting. Proportion and scale become subjects in themselves. Colour and lighting become sympathetic allies in the revealing of the spirit of things. It’s about what to leave out, as much as what to leave in.
To regard these images, these visual bon mots, and to find delight therein (as I have) is a satisfying, demanding, and provocative journey of discovery.