Exhibition Opening – Farnsworth + Miller by Derek Swalwell
Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Photography Derek Swalwell
Words Rose Onans

From Melbourne, Victoria, to Plano, Illinois, and Colombus, Indiana – renowned Melbourne-based photographer Derek Swalwell undertook this journey to document two of the world’s most iconic mid-century modernist houses, the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe and the Miller House by Eero Saarinen. The resulting collection of large-format photographic works, Farnsworth + Miller, will be on exhibition at Fini Frames in Cremorne, opening October 24th, 2019 at 6pm.

Farnsworth + Miller represents a culmination of experience, history, and culture. The photographs capture the unique conditions Derek experienced while shooting each house and gesture towards something more. In each work, there is a poignant sense of the masterful architectural significance that is imbued with an awareness of the continuously unfolding historical narrative in which each house is caught. While both buildings have been extensively photographed over the past half a century, Farnsworth + Miller actively engages with this iconic status that has seen the buildings’ image be recorded and produced many thousands of times and simultaneously captures a quality that transports the viewer into a surreal world that is at once contemporaneous and museum-like.

The Farnsworth House, Mies Van Der Rohe’s masterpiece, sees the modernist glass structure surrounded by dense forest shown in Derek’s photographs as both enigmatic and engaging. A play on the built form and natural environment creates a beguiling tension within the images, seeming to position the viewer within the frame to generate a heightened sense of engagement, contributing a new level of nuance to one’s understanding of the architecture.

The collection of images featuring the Miller House, meanwhile, is appropriately smaller, focusing on the meticulous consideration evident in the finest of details. Here, the home is presented as a time capsule dedicated to paying homage to the skill of Eeron Saarinen and to the moving nostalgia for the period in which it was built. The Miller House, one of the numerous architecturally significant mid-century buildings in the small rural town of Colombus, is deliberately set within an atmosphere of intrigue that suggests at a hidden undertone, unexplained, behind the exquisitely maintained interiors of the house.

While each house is photographed with sensitivity towards its own unique history and individual architectural approach, uniting them is Derek’s curiosity and ability to hint toward the many layers of meaning that enfold both buildings. Farnsworth + Miller places the two significant homes in a dialogue that speaks to the enduring appeal of modernist architecture and design, and the legacy that grows with each passing year.

The exhibition will open at 6pm on Thursday October 24th, 2019 at Fini Frames in Cremorne, Melbourne and is supported by sponsors SAMPLE, Range Life Wine, Cream Electric Art Sydney, Fini Frames and Studio Brave.

Published 22 October, 2019
Photography  Derek Swalwell
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