Sandstone Stories is the 18th solo exhibition by Dr Leonarda Kovai, Katoomba-based photographic artist. It explores the (semi-)abstract features of Australian sandstone landscape through 30 photographic images taken in the Blue Mountains and the Greater Sydney region between 2010 and 2020.
Kovai's previous exhibition, Adriatic Dreaming, explored humanoid and animal-like shapes in Adriatic limestone. This exhibition is the continuation of her exploration of abstraction in naturally shaped rock.
In his Treatise on Painting, Leonardo da Vinci urged artists to study abstract forms and patterns on everyday objects (for example, walls, pavements) in order to develop and increase the power of their artistic perception. This exhibition highlights the abstract features of local, unaltered, in situ sandstone and their potential to tell stories and give meanings to what is usually referred to as inanimate matter.
The images offer a new perspective on Australian sandstone and urge viewers to creatively engage with their content. In that sense, the exhibition is educational in nature: it aims to expand and sharpen viewers' perception of seemingly monotonous natural surfaces and objects.
The images focus on different textures, shapes and hues of sandstone which sometimes appear as familiar forms and sometimes remain abstract mysteries.
The exhibition aims to breathe a new life and sculptural value into the magnificent variety of Australian sandstone.
"In these times of great turbulence and uncertainty, I hope that my images of fairly solid rocks will give viewers a sense of groundedness, stability and timelessness, and an opportunity to reflect on the meaningfulness and beauty of small things in life," said Kovai.
Born in Croatia's culture capital Zagreb and raised by mother academic artist, Kovai came to Australia in 1997 and completed a PhD in Aboriginal Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2001.
In Croatia, Kovai had studied journalism and photography but it was not before her fieldwork in the Aboriginal communities of northern NSW that she produced a serious body of photographic work.
For 12 years, Kovai collaborated with the Elders of Gamaroi and Yularoi nations, recording their cultural heritage. She became enchanted with the Australian bush, and continues to roam the wild paths around Sydney, observing constant changes in nature and herself.
During her 25-year-long academic career, Kovai has taught and published on colonial images of Aboriginal people in Australia and overseas. She is one of the few historians in Australia specialising in colonial photography of Aboriginal people.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, there will not be a formal exhibition opening. The exhibition is at Heritage Gallery at the end of Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath until August 30, daily 9am-4pm.
All exhibited prints are available for sale as are greeting cards with exhibition images (30 per cent of proceeds goes to NSW NPWS).