Viva Jillian Gibb studied art, specifically painting and printmaking in Melbourne in the 1960s and 70s. She began using photography for her silk screen printing at this time and in 1976 held her first photographic exhibition at the George Paton Gallery, Melbourne University Union. In discussing the photographs in her exhibition ‘One year’s work’ at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1979 and the Australian centre for photography, Sydney in 1980, curator Jennie Boddington noted: ‘In these jewel-like pictures, made up of anything from one to ten small prints, we have an essentially poetic mode of picture-making. Gibb was always fascinated by the passing of time and strongly felt its spell in old snaps and photos which have survived after the death, disintegration and bodily decay of the subject.’1
‘Woolloomooloo’ is a beautifully composed and printed quartet of images taken in the inner Sydney suburb before redevelopment. The fine detail of these images enhances rather than detracts from the content. The houses are derelict, graffiti-ed and have signs exhorting the powers that be to pay attention to housing needs for the disenfranchised. Gibb does not romanticise the decay and frustration but presents these as layers of time and human experience to be looked at carefully and with consideration.
Gibb’s work is strongly informed by her interest in the environment and in the human condition. In the 1980s she travelled to South Africa and documented existence in townships under apartheid. More recently she looked at the varieties of ritual and worship on the broader community. She has written: ‘As an individual and an artist I can only hope to present a reality other than that presented by TV and the media. I believe that with humanity, compassion, and a re-examination of past values we can counter the destructive forces that threaten the very existence of a living environment on this earth.’2
1. Boddington, J. 1980, ‘Micky Allan – Botany Bay today & Jillian Gibb – one year’s work’, Australian centre for photography, Sydney, unpaginated
2. Gibb, J. ‘In the land of the living 1981’, in V. Coventry ed. 1986, ‘The critical distance: work with photography/politics/writing’, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney p 92
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
four gelatin silver photographs
a - photograph; 12.2 x 11.9 cm; image
a - photograph; 21.5 x 16.5 cm; sheet
b - photograph; 13.8 x 13.7 cm; image
b - photograph; 21.5 x 16.5 cm; sheet
c - photograph; 13.8 x 13.7 cm; image
c - photograph; 21.5 x 16.5 cm; sheet
d - photograph; 12.4 x 11.9 cm; image
d - photograph; 21.5 x 16.5 cm; sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of the artist 1998
© Viva Jillian Gibb
Shown in 1 exhibition
What is this thing called photography?, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Jun 1999–29 Jul 1999
Referenced in 2 publications
Judy Annear, What is this thing called photography?, Sydney, 1999. no catalogue numbers
Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Not 'simply' anything', pg.266-287, Sydney, 2007, 277 (illus.).