Roberta Thornley

Selected Works

27th Sep –
21st Oct 2023

OPENING EVENT: Wednesday 27 September, 5.30-7.30pm

Melanie Roger Gallery is pleased to present a selection of both new and earlier photographic works by Waikato based artist Roberta Thornley.

Thornley crosses genres and approaches in her practice from landscape, portraiture, still life; from the staged to the incidental. Her process is playful and multidisciplinary, the shape and materiality of objects are explored, relationships built, landscapes navigated. Play pauses for Thornley when she takes a photograph and she is acutely aware of this transitional dialogue between play and photographic act in her engagement with her subjects. Her work hovers at the leaping off point between still and moving image and she delicately occupies herself with the tension between narrative, time and the photographic image.

In this selection of past and new works to be exhibited at Melanie Roger Gallery, an ocean landscape comes to us framed through domesticity. A fence line anchors a sun shower on its timber battens, and a girl in a red dress, turns towards the cyan horizon of the second deepest lake in the world. In ‘Bowl’ 2022, she explores her ongoing interests in twilight and the three phases that mark the sun’s descent. “When I stand in my garden in astronomical twilight, I can see very little. However, in making a photograph in this moment, the camera extends astronomical twilight beyond the potential of the naked eye" The resulting photograph contains and illuminates this almost invisible stage of twilight in vivid pink and orange.

The photographs in this exhibition bring together Thornley’s ongoing interest in the relationship between her chosen medium photography, her subjects and their modifiers - weather, light, colour and time, as well as her congruent and ongoing interest in the aesthetics of ritual and ceremony – throughout history and across cultures.

Thornley was born in Auckland in 1985. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 2007. In 2011 she was the inaugural recipient of the Auckland Festival of Photography Annual Commission and in 2014 she was awarded a residency at Tylee Cottage with the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.  In 2017 she was awarded the prestigious Arts Foundation Marti Friedlander Photographic Award. Thornley has exhibited in Australia and throughout New Zealand in both public and private galleries. Her work is held in collections including Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui and The Arts House Trust. 

This is her first exhibition with Melanie Roger Gallery.



  1. Aug. 2023. Guest Artist: ROBERTA THORNLEY