CHristopher Köller

Christopher Köller trained as a silk-screen printer and then inspired by the Beat writers and an intense curiosity, travelled extensively throughout the late 1960s and '70s. He studied photography at Prahran under Athol Shmith and John Cato, and after graduating lived in Japan where he explored Japanese garden design and bonsai. Köller completed a Masters Degree in Fine Art at RMIT and was a senior lecturer in photography at the Victorian College of the Arts.

Köller has held solo exhibitions in various Australian cities and in Japan, England, Spain and Mexico. His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the City of Monash, Griffith University, the Bibliotheque Nationale of France and the Sata Corporation Collection, Tokyo. 

This suite of Koller’s photographs transports viewers to Isola Bella, a tour-de-force of Baroque garden design sited on an island in Lake Maggiore in the foothills of the Italian Alps. Completed in 1671, the garden is owned by descendants of the Borromeo family, Milanese bankers and allies of the Sforzas, who used it to stage theatrical events for European rulers and aristocrats including Napoleon and Josephine.

The use of a plastic Diana camera with its unreliable focus, moody vignetting, random numbers and flaring light is well suited to Koller’s fantastical subject matter. Isola Bella’s setting and its illusion of sailing on the lake are already other-worldly. Its picturesque pavilions, reflective pools, gesturing sculpted figures and its ghostly white peacocks sweeping over manicured lawns provide the setting and characters for a thousand and one imagined stories. Koller’s photographs enter into the fantasy of this Baroque garden, capturing both its exuberant artificiality and the dream-like experience it invokes.