The Local

By Adam Norris

Photographer Gethin Coles has been bringing the people and places around us to vivid photographic life for years, and has become a stalwart of the local arts beat.

Despite fire, flood and pestilence, Gethin remains optimistic of the creative landscape ahead, including the future of the much-loved Artspace Urunga.

“Of course, I don’t really know how [Covid]’s affecting other artists because I’ve not had as much contact in the last couple of months,” Coles reflects. “I’ve been going over my back catalogue. But I don’t think that’s very normal to be honest. I think if you spoke to a whole bunch of artists you’d get a bunch of different responses, but I don’t think it would stop artists from arting. That’s what we’re hoping for the next Artspace show anyway, that artists are continuing to create.”

Coles has been involved in Artspace Urunga since its inception, and although art galleries still remain shuttered it is his belief that once restrictions ease, its patronage will be as strong as ever.

“The Artspace has been extremely well-received in Urunga, we still don’t actually know what’s going to happen. It’s the last show that really got me. 25% of all sales were going to bushfire relief, and we had to close it all down. That show just ended up being an online show, but for the people involved it was a real kick in the guts. It was a bit of catharsis for them, to express themselves publicly about what had happened, and to have that closed down because of the coronavirus…”

The financial and psychological blows of the pandemic are still rippling across the country, and while digital exhibitions are a current necessity Coles suspects the return of physical spaces will help raise many spirits.

“Seeing a work physically encourages you to slow down. Everything digital is very fast. I watch how people interact with [Instagram]. The picture is on the screen for a fraction of a second, even stuff they like. They stop, take a second, and carry on. I’m putting a photo up that might take a couple of days to finish, but for painters or 3D artists, the amount of time they’ve spent going into a piece that’s getting looked at for half a second… I think that’s bonkers. But in a gallery, of course, you’re encouraged to ponder.”