Born Melbourne, 1955
'Now as the light from a row of TV screens blends with the last rays of the sun, both play over a face staring into a shop window, and as the sound of the mall dies away, imagine as that face curves off into shadow. Turn ever so slightly, a single camera movement brings the distant lights of a freeway into view, blinking through the darkening forest. And the sun goes down behind the mountains.'
Bill Henson has returned consistently to the orchestration of available light, and in particular of twilight, using it to create a kind of modern mythology.
The quiet melodrama of Henson's photographs, and in particular his handling of light to create a transcendent effect, suggests a contemporary reworking of the Sublime. This concept, in which Nature's grandeur provokes the conflicting sensations of astonishment, terror and awe, was central to the Romantic movement of the early 19th century.
In Henson's work, twilight functions as an extraordinary illumination, creating dramatic chiaroscuro effects and conjuring up seemingly supernatural events. His Untitled series of 1998-2003 pairs landscape views of the periphery of Australian towns with scenes of brooding adolescents. In this no-man's land, meanings, morals and behaviours shift. Figures on the cusp of adulthood seem to inhabit a twilight, perhaps bacchanalian world.