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Australian art


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Here photography seems to escape the strictly literal



Bruce Searle


1949 -


Bruce Searle was born and educated in Sydney and graduated from Sydney College of the Arts in 1985. He has taught photography since the 1980s and in 1983 was co-director (with Paul Hewson) of Images Gallery, Sydney. In 1984 he co-curated the groundbreaking exhibition ‘After the artefact’ which included work by ten artists including Jacky Redgate, Geoff Kleem, Ingeborg Tyssen and Mark Johnson. In 1987 Searle wrote:
‘Gary Catalano, in his ‘The bandaged image’, characterised artists’ books as vehicles for ideas, rather than monuments to craft. I would lean towards an acceptance of this pronouncement, although often the ‘finish’ of the book work is an important component for me in the realisation of a conceptual whole. The modest scale particularly, the flexibility possible in form and the intimate sequential unfolding, means that often I can carry to fruition notions of quite novel or ‘antic’ dimension in a way that is rarely possible in work conceived for wall display.1

Searle’s enigmatic book work ‘Here photography seems to escape the strictly literal’ fulfils this promise. The black-and-white images have an elliptical relationship to each other and to the texts. The loose-leaf ‘Odyssey’ photographed through glass reinforces the turning of the page and the notion of the journey into the unknown, both of which are frozen by the action of the camera as much as the glass. Searle’s subtle sequential works emphasise the move away from the single image which reflects the real and into the realm of the imagination where reality is a constantly shifting ground.

1. Ennis H & Davidson K 1988, 'Australian photography: the 1980s', National Gallery of Australia, Canberra p 80

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media categories

Album , Photograph

Materials used

bound album: 10 leaves, 7 photographically derived images


10 leaves: 31.0 x 41.7 cm each leaf; 31.7 x 42.1 x 0.5 cm album closed :

a - The Odyssey, 19.1 x 28.5 cm, image

a - The Odyssey, 23.1 x 33.1 cm, sheet

b - War memorial, 19 x 28.5 cm, image

b - War memorial, 24 x 33.8 cm, sheet

c - Get the good oil here, 19 x 28.6 cm, image

c - Get the good oil here, 23.1 x 33.8 cm, sheet

d - Keep left, 19.1 x 28.6 cm, image

d - Keep left, 23.6 x 33.9 cm, sheet

e - Lawn bowls, 19 x 28.5 cm, image

e - Lawn bowls, 23.4 x 33.7 cm, sheet

f - Marilyn 1, 19.1 x 29.4 cm, image

f - Marilyn 1, 22.2 x 31.9 cm, sheet

g - Marilyn 2, 19 x 29.5 cm, image

g - Marilyn 2, 23.5 x 32.9 cm, sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. verso leaf j, pencil "BS/ aug 1987". Dated l.c. leaf c, pencil ".../ 1983-4".


Gift of the artist 1987


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Bruce Searle

Works in the collection


Referenced in 1 publication


George Alexander, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Tableaux - memento mori - screen culture', pg.313-335, Sydney, 2007, 318, 321 (illus.). illustration of part a