Clear Water Reckoning: Juno Gemes Draws with Light on the Hawkesbury River
It’s well known among artists / photographers that the Hawkesbury River is a very difficult subject. The geography of the river is wide and long, from the rocky escarpments around Mooney Mooney, to the broad reach of the river as it glides upstream from the rail and road bridges.
It takes the intimate knowledge of actually living with the river over a long period of time to find the right means of description.
Juno has lived on Mooney Creek for twenty years. Her photographs are as deeply layered as the topography of the river itself.
Rodney Hall has written about Juno’s Hawkesbury images: ‘ These river photographs capture the charm, the hardship, the grind and the tenderness of life on the Hawkesbury River. The achievement is remarkable. This is a deeply reflective portrait of a river and the people who live there—free from sentimentality yet rich in affection. A hymn to acceptance and understanding where even the fleeting moments may expand, opening on a gamut of meanings from the personal to the cosmic.’
As Francis Webb’s says : ‘The tiny not the immense will teach our groping eyes’. We see the branches of mangroves dancing and their trunks standing, sloping, like ghostly figures in the mist. The details in the oyster farmer’s hands, the creases in the mudflats where the fishing boats make their calligraphy. Juno’s images take us into an eternity of changing tides, shifting mists, the ripples on the surface of the river from breezes and stronger winds. The dark surface of the river glides into the distance, a black glass artery that meanders by the old oyster farmers’s hut. The mist, Juno call’s ‘the serpent’s breath’ just hinting at myth.
These important photographs are free from sentimentality. Beauty can be revealed in the toughest image, and these photographs decode place and its mystery, reinforcing its spirit, giving it language. Juno has created a world from her drawings with light and it is a world that will remain intact because it is a major work of art, a work of the imagination as well as a record of a particular reality in time and place.
Mooney Creek, Spring 2008