Ralph Kerle

Ralph Kerle is an artist based in Sydney, Australia. His medium is photography, and his primary subject is the waterways of Sydney Harbour, encountered at the level of a one-man kayak. Through adventuring into the aquatic labyrinth of his home city, Kerle illuminates a world that is all but invisible to the distracted denizens of the metropolis, even as it dances and transforms in plain sight. Sensuous forms, liquid and mercurial, animate Kerle’s photographic images, at times evoking the crepuscular landscapes created by 18th and 19th-century oil painters at the height of the Romantic period before shifting to decidedly nautical scenes that celebrate the city perched on the water’s edge.

Back on dry land, Kerle is fascinated by the process of image selection and the extent to which one photographic shot, as opposed to another, will draw attention. According to Kerle, the psychological phenomenon of “pareidolia”, being the ability of the brain to “extract meaningful patterns from the input it receives”, is the key to understanding his work. In effect, the abstract field invites the viewer on a journey both sensuous and intuitive. Studying these works over time, the visual language shifts and changes from the purely abstract to one where elements of the tangible world are brought squarely to mind.

/Damian Smith, curator, art critic/

…when you’re on a kayak, and you’re in the water, and you’re in the bush, in nature, there’s a strange kind of transformation that takes place. Nature is encompassing you, and you’re not going to do anything with it. You just live with it. You’ve got to embrace it…

Often when I see an image for the first time I think is worthy of being a potential new piece, I attempt to title it. Sometimes the title comes immediately. The abstraction in the work is apparent at first glance and will name itself. At other times, titling the work is a real challenge. Sometimes an artwork will simply not give up a title that seems a suitable descriptor for the content in the work.

The works are composed of captures that reflect on abstraction in nature. Abstraction, in my view, is not an unconscious act of visualization by an artist, as some might suggest. Rather, it forms as the result of an artist’s subconscious observation, with the image being the artist’s manifestation of what their brain has perceived. The current series is my attempt to capture those unconscious selections using a 21st-century medium – the digital camera. Once completed, it is up to the viewer to form their own perceptions of what these natural formations represent.

/Ralph Kerle/

Before his emergence as a photo artist, Ralph Kerle had been involved in fine art in Australia since the 1970s, graduating from the Victorian College of The Arts, where he majored in Dramatic Arts, in 1979 to be followed by a Master’s in Creative Industries. He came to prominence in Australia in the early 1980s as an arts pioneer in multi-media performance whilst he was Associate Director of Sydney Theatre Company. Kerle wrote and directed a contemporary opera, “Soul”, one of the world’s first multi-media performance works, which represented Australia at World Expo 88. Over the next two decades, he worked as creative director in his own event company, Eventures, specializing in designing and producing large-scale public and corporate live events for blue chip global brands, including Walt Disney, Rolls Royce and Foxtel. In the early 2000s, he began designing and delivering creativity workshops worldwide. Over the two following decades, he was made a Senior Leader in the US Creative Problem Solving Institute, served on the Board of Trustees of the US Creative Education Foundation and worked as an Innovation Coach at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Canada. In 2010, he was nominated by IBM as one of the world’s 100 creative leaders.

The series in this exhibition represents a return to and re-interpretation of his early multi-media work in a domain that has now metamorphosed into photographic art. His focus is on capturing images created by and in nature and conceptualizing those images into fine art abstract photographic artworks. It is through his past creative experiences Kerle has developed this unique visual style – “his aesthetic eye.” His work is held in corporate and private collections in Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, UAE, United Kingdom and the USA.

Exhibition period: 03 March 2023 – 21 May 2023