Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin is pleased to announce a major collaboration with Sophie Gannon Gallery in presenting Joseph McGlennon: Decade, a survey of Joseph McGlennon’s most iconic images from the first ten years of his practice. This is the artist’s first major showing in Melbourne since Melbourne Art Fair in 2018 and follows the critical success of his 2020 Awakening series.
Also premiering is McGlennon’s newest series, Silentium, which explores a landscape verging on a surrealist desert. Sparse and foreboding, it is an Australian backdrop which hints at Dali’s vast dreamscapes in which each strange symbol is loaded with meaning. McGlennon similarly invites his audience to look beyond the ornithological study towards symbolic value. The owl takes centre stage in this series, a bird loaded with cultural weight.
In these auburn-toned images the owls appear as guides or signposts. Intelligent, watchful and wise, they also bear the talons of raptors. Their role here is ambiguous. Each owl also holds a snake underfoot, a nod to both animals as ancient symbols of the medical and legal fraternities, but also to a more curious symbiosis in the natural world; Owls are known to “keep” small live snakes in their nests, to clean the nest of insects and parasites, protecting their young.
In Silentium, McGlennon successfully mines art history and natural world with a light touch. We see echoes of Byzantine Icons, Dali Deserts, and heroic 18th Century portraiture tied-in with a profound respect for the art of natural history. By looking backwards, McGlennon’s contemporary photographs move far beyond the descriptive, into a territory richly layered with meaning and symbolism, encouraging the viewer to ask what lessons these owls might hold for us?
Among the photographs showing in Joseph McGlennon: Decade are several historical works which are swiftly approaching a sell out status. This exhibition is likely to be the final opportunity to view some of McGlennon’s most iconic works from his Thylacine, Skyestag, Kangaroo Study and Awakening series’ in a public showing.