Anne Zahalka is one of Australia’s most highly regarded photo-media artists, having exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas for more than thirty years. Her work has often explored cultural and environmental points of tension, challenging these with a humorous and critical voice. She deconstructs familiar scenes and re-presents them to allow other figures and stories to be told that reflect on cultural diversity and ecological impact within Australian society.
In 2018, Zahalka continued her investigation into the relationship between people and the natural world, which she began in her series ‘Wild Life’ (first in 2006 and then in 2017). Scientists have used the term ‘Anthropocene’ to describe an ecological turning point where the impact of human behaviour has significantly and permanently affected our planet, contributing to drastic changes on climate. In response to this, Zahalka has travelled to natural history museums across the world to record dioramas, including in New York, Mumbai, Sydney and Launceston. The artist turns a compelling and critical lens onto taxidermied animals in lush, constructed environments based on science, questioning not only our impact on the natural world, but also the way in which these museums construct knowledge. In these images, didactic tools are turned on their heads through her digital interventions. Zahalka introduces planes slashing across a painted sky, rubbish piling up beside an animal encounter, and cityscapes infiltrating the horizon in order to mark out unsettling ethical issues.
Zahalka was selected for the international photography exhibition Civilization – The Way We Live Now shown at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, 2018 and the National Gallery of Victoria in September 2019. In the same year, Zahalka developed a major exhibition with the Museum of Sydney presenting a history of early commercial street photography. She was commissioned to produce a series and portraits, restaging these historic photographs with descendants from the original images, set against the locations of the original photograph. In the same year, Zahalka travelled to Prague to undertake a residency at the Béhal Fejér Institute in Prague to exhibit The Fate of Things Prague, an installation about love and loss tracing her family’s story of persecution, exile and survival.
Zahalka has held more than 40 solo exhibitions and been curated into over 140 group exhibitions across the world, including the Australian Embassy in Washington, GEM/Fotomuseum in Den Haag, the Chulalangkorn Art Centre, Bangkok, the Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, and the Sala del Canal de Isabel II in Madrid, Spain. Her works are held in major national and international collections including National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australian Bicentennial Collection, National Art Gallery, Wellington (NZ), Parliament House, Canberra, National Gallery of Victoria, Sir Elton John Collection, Deutsche Bank Collection, International Polaroid Collection, USA, Visart, New York and numerous other regional galleries, universities and private collections.
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