Olive COTTON, Surf's edge Enlarge 1 /1


Australia 1911 – 2003

Surf's edge c 1935 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Creation Notes: vintage print
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Primary Insc: insc; in pencil l.l. sheet 'Surf's edge' , l.r sheet in pencil, 'Olive Cotton '35 '
Dimensions: printed image 13.0 h x 20.3 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2012
Accession No: NGA 2012.1149
Subject: Seascape

As a ‘close-up’, this rarely exhibited view of ocean foam hitting the shore seems an unusual image in Cotton’s oeuvre; she once stated that, ‘I never liked close-ups or zooms, never liked any tricks’. All the same, its reduction of a very complex subject (the vastness and infinite rhythms of the ocean) to a simple graphic statement is in many ways typical of Cotton’s approach to the act of photographing the world. The photograph certainly reveals an interest in modernist form and structure, since the natural world has been reduced to just three overlapping forms; it also revels in the pictorial effect created by light hitting organic surfaces. This small, uncanny landscape seems to have influenced Dupain’s similarly titled photograph Surf edge (1950), which also shows in relative close-up the foamy edges created by waves hitting the shoreline.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra