Paul Cox 1940-2016
1 September 2016 to 16 October 2016
Paul Cox, the much-admired film director, writer and photographer, passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer on 18 June 2016. This exhibition, curated from MGA’s significant holdings of his work, pays tribute to his photographic practice and celebrates his life as an image-maker.
Cox’s artistic reputation generally turns around his work as a filmmaker. As his obituary in The New York Times noted, he was “widely considered a father of Australian art cinema”. The still camera, however, was an important element of his artistic toolbox and his photographic work certainly illuminates the breadth and depth of a profoundly creative life.
The earliest photographs in this exhibition were produced when Cox was in his 20s and travelling through Asia and the Pacific region. On these youthful expeditions, he typically produced soulful images exploring the human condition and questioning the value of Western progress; themes that recur throughout his later films. After settling in Australia in 1965, Cox took up a position teaching film and photography at Prahran College during the early 1970s. Here, he played an important role fostering the careers of young photographers such as Robert Ashton and Carol Jerrems, and his European approach to art education helped establish Prahran College as one of the most progressive art schools in the country.
After leaving Prahran College to concentrate on filmmaking, photography retreated into the background of Cox’s artistic profile, only to resurface later in his life during a period of convalescence. In poor health, and in need of a more solitary mode of practice, he rediscovered his old cameras and revisited the classic humanist genre of ‘the nude’. This final series of photographs not only testifies to Cox’s incessant need for creative expression, but also reflects his enduring belief in the power of human empathy.