In Conversation with Convent Artists Jo Condon and Nadin

    The Convent’s St Heliers Street Gallery is an exciting space to showcase the work of our creative tenants and the wider artistic community. The gallery currently offers an abundance of photographic delight with concurrent exhibitions by Convent tenants Jo Condon and Nadin. We chatted with Jo and Nadin about their exhibitions and their passion for seeing light within nature, themselves and others.

    Jo Condon

    Can you tell me about the themes within your exhibition?

    JC: The central theme of this exhibition is the wilderness where I grew up in southwest Victoria, the sometimes-overlooked elements that make it up, and my relationship with them.

    ‘Grounded’ jumped out at me as the title for this exhibition because that mirrored my relationship with the wilderness then – my feet were buried in the sand, mud or a swamp most of the time!

    The images in this series depict spots in the wilderness where some of my fondest memories were made: within a globally unique volcano complex at Tower Hill, on a magical strip of sheltered beach in Port Fairy, across an energetic estuary environment at Yambuk, amongst pillow basalts and wriggling kelp fields in Port Fairy, and in the echo-filled volcanic lake at Buj Bim / Mount Eccles.

    ‘Kelp Puzzle’

    Your exhibition, Grounded, explores your early memories of the wilderness in coastal southwest Victoria. Can you share one particular experience that you wish to highlight in the exhibition?

    JC: Yes, one great memory I have was fishing for minnows (small fish) in a small culvert behind the dunes with my mum and sister, using sticks, fishing wire and worms. We would sit on this little bridge for hours observing the activity below: gently swaying water and wriggling reeds, bugs endlessly transporting water bubbles up and down, the odd clump of algae levitating by…it was mesmerising.

    Then I’d get home and start dreaming about creatures that might have been hiding under the bridge that I didn’t notice. Ones that might come out at dusk or later to dance and make magic. And these dreams were recurrent for years, with me conjuring up more and more of this narrative over time. I had a vivid imagination!

    ‘Pond Life’

    What does it mean to you to be grounded in nature?

    JC: Staring at the simple things – hearing and smelling nothing but nature – and getting off track. There’s no other environment that serves up this mix of open invitation, therapy and entertainment.

    Your exhibition will run alongside Nadin’s The Light Within. How do you think the two photographic exhibitions complement each other?

    JC: I think they both speak from the heart about our passion for the light within nature, ourselves and each other. We want to encourage people to seek out enriching experiences with each of these! And we’re both so grateful to be able to communicate these ideas through our chosen mode of photography.

    What’s next for you?

    JC: Something completely different – a new challenge! I’m keen to explore the science of dreams in a playful and interactive way…watch this space.

    Nadin

    Can you tell me about the themes within your exhibition?

    N: I would say that 'light' is the main point around which this exhibition is orbiting. For me, light has both a physical and a symbolic meaning. In the physical world, light allows us to see things on their superficial level. On a metaphysical level, light is something intangible, something close to our spirit or consciousness, depending if you look it from a philosophical or a scientific point of view.

    This metaphysical light is the one that I am looking for when I meet people. I try to go beyond a 'personality' – a title, an age, a social status, a race, a sexual orientation or a gender. Beyond all the layers that we see with our physical eyes. That is also why I like to represent these 'labels and layers' in a physical manner in my work by means of painting and printing on layers of acetate.

    You mention Eastern and Western Philosophies are a big influence on your life and art. Can you talk a bit more about this?

    N: I have explored several disciplines in my research over the last three years. I am very fond of meditation, especially the Shamatha practice, part of the Buddhist tradition. I also enrolled to a school of philosophy, New Acropolis, where I have the chance to study Eastern and Western philosophies. We study Buddhism, Hinduism and Ancient Greek philosophy, just to name a few.

    I find that the wisdom from the West and the East complement each other and are both shaping my life and my research in different ways.

    What message are you hoping to communicate through your exhibition, The Light Within?

    N: My biggest hope is to inspire the visitors to exercise their internal eyes. To look for the similarities in all we meet rather than the differences. To go beyond our instinctive defense mechanism and to move towards the 'other'. To start using empathy and compassion.

    You’re currently engaged in research that investigates the concept of connection. Can you tell us a bit about your research and how it has informed your exhibition?

    N: My research started around three years ago with one word: connection. After exploring the word conceptually and artistically, I realised that it was about a connection with humans and nature. This exhibition focuses more on the human side of the research. I used photography in the attempt to capture a glimpse of the connection that I feel with the model.

    My studies about compassion, self-compassion and emotions are the foundation for each photographic session. I am creating an invisible thread that is connecting me as an artist to the person that is in front of the camera. Photography acts as a documentation of something very subtle that is happening in the moment I press the button on the camera.  

    What’s next for you?

    N: I will keep working on my research. I will definitely do more studio photography (there is so much I still need to learn about studio lights!). Another thing that I really enjoyed doing for this exhibition was painting on acetate, so I will definitely experiment and play more with that!

    Catch Grounded by Jo Condon and The Light Within by Nadin at St Heliers Street Gallery until 7 October.