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Monash Gallery Of Art

Claudia Terstappen: In the shadow of change

Claudia Terstappen: In the shadow of change

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Claudia Terstappen originally trained as a sculptor but for over three decades she has worked in the medium of photography. In some respects, her art practice has been developed between these two artistic disciplines. She retains a strong interest in the sculptural sensation of a physical encounter in space, but she uses the two-dimensional medium of photography to document and reiterate these experiences.

Terstappen’s interest in the interplay between depth and surface is also evident in the subjects that she explores. She often photographs places that have deep or hidden meanings. This includes sites of pilgrimage, shrines of worship and landscapes invested with mythic significance. These associations are not always apparent, and often subsist as a type of secret knowledge, but they can be given tangible form through processes of story-telling and ceremonial action. Terstappen engages

with these locations in order to give them a tangible photographic form, elaborating a sense of symbolic power or sublime drama across the surface of her images.

This exhibition features 75 photographs depicting places that have been invested with spiritual resonances or mythical associations, from Iceland and southern Europe to the Americas and Australia. The starting point for this exhibition is a selection of gelatin silver prints that were hand-printed by the artist between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s. These pictures now form part of an archive of historically significant places that are threatened by social and ecological change.

This archive of spiritual sites has, over time, become an environmental archive; reminding us that photography not only has the power to bring places to life, but also to bear witness to the forces that threaten life. The hand-printed black-and-white landscapes are counter posed with four oversized landscapes printed on vinyl. This illuminates the trajectory of Terstappen’s practice, which has moved from the intimacy of handmade photographs to the theatricality of large digital prints.


Claudia Terstappen was born in Germany and studied at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie, the training ground for many of Germany’s most important contemporary artists. She has since exhibited widely throughout Europe, North America and Australia, where she now lives. Terstappen is currently Professor of Photography at Monash University.

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