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nature

colour, landscape, nature

beyond the pastoral mode

January 20, 2016

With the opening of the Fleurieuscapes exhibition at Magpie Springs done and dusted  I have had bit of  time to set up the various project  galleries on the website  properly. They  now need to have  more images added to the projects and  I have started working on the Adelaide galleries, which  are   here, here and here. 

I have also had time to begin to think about the Fleurieuscapes project and how I have been approach the work to date and where it needs to go. I have  avoided the pastoral and the picturesque modes of  the nineteenth century  by concentrating on the  formal aspects of the landscape. It is difficult to avoid the reduction of the landscape to a stereotype of bright sunshine and scattered gum trees in the high summer.

grass tree + pink gum

 

Admittedly, bright sunshine and scattered gum trees does break with the English pastoral of the Heidelberg School –the homestead paddocks with milking cows casting long shadows in early morning or twilight, as they grazed in cool temperate pasture of the Heidelberg School.   The land had been  successfully tamed by the settlers,  and at Federation, they  were celebrating their British moorings and  their Anglo-Saxon heritage.

The picturesque mode relishes light and shadow, texture of grass, antiquated fences, dappled shaded cows.  The picturesque was a European (English) aesthetic and Australian art was  non-European and  ‘unpicturesque’. This European  landscape art is predicated on a widespread desire for disinterested enjoyment that precludes the direct lived engagement  premised on an understanding  of the actual ecology of places. It is predicted on an ‘outsider’s perspective’, rather than  the experience of someone who lives in that particular place.

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abstraction, black + white, coastal, exhibitions, nature, rocks

Fleurieuscapes: Outtake 3

January 12, 2016

This abstraction of the granite rocks at Kings Head, which is near Victor Harbor on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia,    is another out take from the Fleurieuscapes exhibition at Magpie Springs. One  reason for  this image not making the cut is that I decided that there would be no abstractions  in the exhibition, given my 2015  Australian Abstraction exhibition at the Light Gallery in Adelaide during the SALA Festival.   Another reason  for  its  exclusion is that the  people  helping me  to curate the  pictures   for the exhibition judged  that  the image  was too forbidding and  austere. It was a part of the  grotesque mode of expression in the visual art and it didn’t really fit in  the exhibition.

This exhibition  is part of the emerging trend in contemporary art photography  in Australia and New Zealand  that shows a marked and widespread interest in landscape. There has been a tendency to trivialise and overlook landscape photography, including the photography of wilderness.

rock abstract, Kings Head

rock abstract, Kings Head

The  textual background to the exhibition is that the genre of landscape has been desperately unfashionable across the arts for so long, the preserve of the Sunday painter and the happy tourist snapper. While the photographic canon includes the greats of landscape photography,  more recently photographers have tended to avoid a genre that is so easily linked to the vernacular (ie., happy snappers and tourism) and so difficult to connect to serious intent.
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black + white, landscape, nature

Australian landscape + darkness

December 30, 2015

According to Marcus Bunyan one of the surprises of  the 2015 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize at the Monash Gallery of Art was  the surfeit of landscape work. He says of this work that the:

Key words when looking at the landscape work are: the sublime, internal terrain, elision, fear, darkness, constructed landscapes, aesthetic hyper reality, unreachable worlds, presence and absence, layering, pigment prints.

There is a heavy sense of un/reality about all of the landscape work, as though there is no such thing as the unmediated, straight landscape photograph any more. Reality passes (passing itself off for something else), and the viewer is left to tease out what is constructed (or not), how many layers (both mental and physical) are involved, and what the possible outcomes might be. In this post-landscape photography even straight digital photographs or analogue photographs of the landscape take on this desiccated view complete with surface flatness and “air” of unreality.

He adds that there is  no link to traditional notions of the sublime and little connection to the elemental (as in the object as itself) and that  these photographs are all about the photographer’s ideas and desires, not about the world itself.

I didn’t see the  works in the exhibition  in the flesh so I am not sure how these  photographs in post-colonial Australia relate to Australia’s origins  as a British colony in which the settles views the land  as  a foreign landscape that the settlers sought to “civilize” and alter in the image of Britain as part of the colonizing project. The  history was one of an abrupt encounter between Europeans and a harsh and strange landscape, which  created a sense of derangement and disorientation that lingers in contemporary visions of the land and nature. So the landscape is also  a textual space and a text, a site of myth making and the product of myth. The settler’s Outback  as a space away from settlement, a wilderness that was feared; a space with a history of violence. It is a fearful and dangerous place. Myth is intrinsic to the Outback.

 Since we have shifted to live at Victor Harbour,   I now live near bits of native scrub/bush along  the heavily developed coast  and I have been slowly photographing the remnants of  the native scrub  in both colour and black and white. The land looms large in white Australia culture and I wan too know more about the place where I live.
2 branches, Heysen Trail

2 branches, Heysen Trail

The black and white is quite different in tone and mood to the colour work: its dark and it points towards dark places that conceal the unknown and which cause us to be fearful. This is also a landscape that is tangled in a history that holds both a presence and an absence, a knowledge and yet a denial of past colonial deeds. The  landscape + darkness go together in Australia.  Continue Reading…

colour, film, landscape, nature, topographics

On Ghostly nature

October 11, 2015

On Friday evening, after picking up my negatives from the Atkins Photo Lab for the Yellow Competition and those made on my recent trips to Canberra and Ballarat, I went to the opening of Ghostly Nature – part 2 at the Adelaide Town Hall. This exhibition, which is curated by Polly Jean Dance, as part of the Adelaide City Council’s innovative Emerging Curator Program, builds on her earlier Ghostly Nature Part One exhibition. Ghostly Nature – part 2 is an exploration of the dark and haunted side of our natural landscape that asserts itself in often mysterious, yet magical ways.

The image below is not from either of the Ghostly nature exhibitions at the Adelaide Town Hall. It is one of mine, and it is a picture of the Mt Lyell Open Cut mine in Queenstown, Tasmania, that is a part of the Edgelands body of work. I’ve introduced the image into this post to suggest that Polly Dance’s concept of the dark and haunted side of our natural landscape that asserts itself in often mysterious, yet magical ways refers to the sublime.

Mt Lyell Mine, Tasmania

Mt Lyell Mine, Tasmania

It is good to see this reclaiming of the aesthetic concept of the sublime by Adelaide’s curators, since the sublime is predominantly an aesthetic category relating to nature and the concept has been used too little by Anglo-American philosophers who have largely forgotten this aesthetic category. A good case can be made that the neglect of the concept by Anglo-American aestheticians is unjustified: sublime responses, especially to natural environments, are still with us today, and may be even more frequent than in former times.

The Ghostly nature exhibition implies that its working understanding of the sublime goes beyond Edmund Burke’s concept of it in his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) as a largely non-cognitive, affective arousal to one that understands the sublime response as including, in addition to this affective arousal, an intellectual play with ideas involving especially ideas regarding the place of human beings within the environment.
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abstraction, black + white, Encounter Studio, nature

abstraction exhibition

May 22, 2015

I have an exhibition of abstractions coming up at the Light Gallery  during the 2015 SALA Festival in August. It is a modest solo exhibition that consists of both abstractions from nature and from various walls and containers. The work has been constructed from the archives, and it can be seen as part of the shift inn photography to abstraction as a response to the digital realm.

An example of the abstractions from nature:

trunk abstract #1

trunk abstract #1

This picture was made with my old 8×10 Cambo monorail, and it is the trunk of a redgum that Suzanne’s mother bought back from Arkaroola as a seedling and planted in the reserve across from the studio. Then–the 1980s–the reserve was barren with just a bunch of pine trees. It was old farmland. The storm water from the large housing development up the side of the hill currently flows through the reserve, and it is now populated with large native trees and lots of birdlife. So we live near the sea surrounded by trees.
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