Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bill Henson (born 1955) is an Australian contemporary art photographer

Bill Henson (born 1955) is an Australian contemporary art photographer.


Henson has exhibited nationally and internationally in galleries such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Venice Biennale, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. His current practice involves holding one exhibition in Australia every two years, and up to three overseas exhibitions each year.
The use of chiaroscuro is common throughout his works, through underexposure and adjustment in printing. His photographs' use of bokeh is intended to give them a painterly atmosphere. The work is often presented as diptychs, triptychs and in other groupings, and the exhibitions are specifically curated by Henson to reflect a sense of musicality.
Duality is a recurring theme of Henson's work, often in combination with adolescent subjects. He frequently employs a flattened perspective through the use of telephoto lenses. His works are often in the form of staged tableaux in which faces of the subjects are often blurred or partly shadowed and do not directly face the viewer.
Henson states that he is not interested in a political or sociological agenda.

Life and influences

Raised in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Henson studied Visual Arts and Design 1974–1975 at Prahran College of Advanced Education where Athol Shmith was head of the Photography program and John Cato and Paul Cox were lecturers. He did not complete the diploma, but the nineteen-year-old Henson's work was promoted by Shmith to Jenny Boddington, inaugural Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria with the result that Henson's first solo show was exhibited there in 1975.
From his period as a student until its closure in 1980, he worked at The Bookshop of Margareta Webber 343 Little Collins Street Melbourne, which specialised in luxurious books on ballet, dance and the visual arts. Leaving the bookshop, he traveled and photographed in Eastern Europe. He taught briefly at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. The long-term relationship of Henson with Luminist Melbourne painter Louise Hearman has been noted as mutually influential on their art.


Images seized

On 22 May 2008, the opening night of Bill Henson's 2007–2008 exhibition at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Paddington, Sydney, was cancelled after eight individual complaints were made to Police voicing concerns about an email invitation from the Gallery to a "Private View" that depicted photographs of a nude 13-year old girl. Hetty Johnston, a child protection advocate (Bravehearts), also lodged a complaint with the New South Wales police. On the same day a Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Miranda Devine, had also written a scathing article in response to viewing the email invitation, which precipitated heated talk-back and media discussion throughout the day. In the process of removing the images from the Gallery, Police found more photographs of naked children on exhibition among various large format photographs of nonfigurative subjects, which they later sought to examine for the purposes of determining their legal status under the NSW Crimes Act and child protection legislation. Following discussions with the Gallery and a decision by Henson, the Gallery cancelled the opening and postponed the show.
It was announced on 23 May that a number of the images in the exhibition had been seized by police local Area Commander Alan Sicard, with the intention of charging Bill Henson and/or the Gallery with "publishing an indecent article" under the Crimes Act. The seized images were also removed from the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery website, where the remainder of the series can now be viewed online.
The situation provoked a national debate on censorship. In a televised interview, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated that he found the images "absolutely revolting" and that they had "no artistic merit". These views swiftly drew censure from members of the 'creative stream' who attended the recent 2020 Summit convened by Rudd, led by actor Cate Blanchett.
On 5 June 2008 the former director of the National Gallery of Australia, Betty Churcher, said it was "not surprising" that the New South Wales Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) would announce its official recommendation that no charges be laid regarding the Sydney Roslyn Oxley9 gallery's collection of photographs by artist Bill Henson.
Ms Churcher says it would have been ridiculous to drag the case through the courts:
I'm very pleased that the public prosecutor has decided that it's likely to end the debacle because they always do, as soon as you take art into court it never works ... The court is not the place to decide matters of art.
On 6 June 2008 it was reported in The Age that police would not prosecute Bill Henson over his photographs of naked teenagers, after they were declared "mild and justified" and given a PG rating by the Australian Classification Board, suggesting viewing by children under the age of 16 is suitable with parental guidance.
Australian scholar Niall Lucy criticizes Devine's response to Henson's art in his 2010 book Pomo Oz: Fear and Loathing Down Under.
David Marr's book The Henson case was listed for the 2009 Victorian Premier's Literary Award and the 2009 Prime Minister's Literary Awards.

Selection of models

On 4 October 2008, Henson became the centre of controversy again after it was revealed in extracts of The Henson case that in 2007 he visited St Kilda Park Primary School to pick out potential models for his art work. Henson was allowed entry into the school and escorted by principal Sue Knight around the schoolgrounds and picked two children he thought would be suitable – one child, a boy, was later photographed after his parents were approached by the school on behalf of the artist.
An investigation into the matter was launched by the Department of Education on 6 October 2008. The investigation found that the principal had complied with departmental policy, and had no case to answer.

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