Posts Tagged ‘Wilderness

27
Apr
19

Review: ‘Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 12th May 2019

part of the CLIMARTE Festival: ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania' 1980

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania
1980
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

 

A little too perfect

A few ideas that struck me at this exhibition.

1/ The large format 4 x 5″ colour transparencies must be near absolute perfect exposures…. everything is there in the exposure. It’s as though the transparency is the finished print. Everything that Dombrovskis wanted to capture, he did. He was a perfectionist.

His previsualisation of the scene was exceptional. He knew what he wanted to capture, he was so focused on it. The beauty is there, but how do you make it sing? Only in a few images was I swept off my feet.

2/ His use of ‘near far’ is noticeable, taken from Ansel Adams most likely. In photographs like Morning light on Little Horn (1995), Cushion plants, Mount Anne (1984) and Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth (1986) your eye is led from the detailed foreground to the magnificent vista beyond.

3/ In photographs such as Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon (1979) and Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness (1995) the subject seems to dissolve into Abstract Expressionist compositions.

4/ The wall colours of the exhibition utterly failed the work, especially with the line colour change running through the image.

5/ I never really felt the “sublime” nature of the Tasmanian wilderness in these photographs. I wanted to be transported to the place that was pictured but it never happened.

6/ I suspect this has to do with a/ the perfection of the transparency b/ the size at which these contemporary photographs were printed, and c/ the almost scientific, analytical nature of the contemporary printing.

 

I had no sense or feeling for place or “atmosphere” that emanates from a truly great photograph. These large prints were wholly disappointing in that regard. They were nearly all printed at the same size, too big, with the same monotonous clarity of composition and balancing of print, one to the other. Almost a clinical printing with too much colour saturation with no room for chaos or vibration of energy.

When printing, I was taught to rack the enlarger up and down to find when the print becomes like a jewel. This is a felt response to the negative, and an image can have several positions or print sizes when this may occur. To print the bulk of these digital images at the same size goes against this very intuitive response to the work.

There are so many moves that can be justified by an objective argument when making a fine art print – but which still don’t add up when you view the whole. Oh! to see five vintage prints in this exhibition, to see how Dombrovsksi would have printed them himself.

I really wanted to like these photographs but when you try and force something, it ain’t ever going to happen.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the media photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan, the artist and the Monash Gallery of Art.

 

 

‘When you go out there, you don’t get away from it all. You get back to it all. You come home to what’s important. You come home to yourself.’

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Peter Dombrovskis

 

‘… we moved in a glittering, sun-splashed world where living assumed a clarity and intensity unknown in ordinary city-bound existence. Our bodies became attuned to rock and rapid, our senses easily absorbed the roar of white-water, the silent greens of the rainforest. My steadily growing skill at negotiating obstacles bolstered my self-confidence and eased the shyness of adolescence.’

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Peter Dombrovskis in Jane Cadzow, ‘A lasting image’, Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine, 22 March 1997

 

‘An ethic of the land is needed because the remaining wilderness, that which makes this island truly unique, is threatened by commercial exploitation that will destroy its value to future generations. Machines are already shattering the silence of ages, invading the last forests and damming and drowning the wild rivers and gorges.’

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Peter Dombrovskis, ‘The quiet land’ (Peter Dombrovskis Pty Ltd., Hobart 1977)

 

‘We must try to retain as much as possible of what still remains of the unique, rare and beautiful. Is there any reason why … the ideal of beauty could not become an accepted goal of national policy? Is there any reason why Tasmania should not be more beautiful on the day we leave it than on the day we came? … if we can accept the role of steward and depart from the role of conqueror; if we can accept the view that man and nature are inseparable parts of the unified whole, then Tasmania can be a shining beacon in a dull, uniform and largely artificial world.’

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Olegas Truchanas in Max Angus, ‘The world of Olegas Truchanas’ (Olegas Truchanas Publication Committee, Hobart 1975)

 

 

The photograph (above), Morning mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979), is one of the most celebrated landscape photographs in Australian history. Commissioned by Bob Brown (later to become leader of the Greens Party), this image became synonymous with the successful campaign of the 1980s to prevent the damming of the Franklin River for hydro-electric development. It appeared on posters with the memorable yellow, triangular slogan ‘NO DAMS’ and showed Australians what would be lost under the waters of a dam should the hydroelectric scheme go ahead. Using his camera as a tool, Dombrovskis shared with society the riches that they would forgo if the environment was not protected.

The photograph below, Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth Cradle, Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986) is an image that Bob Brown had in his office at a similarly large scale to provide an immediate and memorable talking point with visitors.

Many Australians encountered these images for the first time in prosaic settings: in a newspaper campaign advertisement, a diary used at work, a calendar on the side of the fridge, or a poster in a waiting room. Most of us will never visit the places he photographed, but into our ordinary everyday lives his images bring something of the beauty and the power of the wild places of Tasmania. Seldom in the history of photography has there been such a clear example of visual culture having such a political sway.

Exhibition label

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the opening of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania' 1986

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Mount Geryon from the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania
1986
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Coastline north of the Pieman River, Tarkine wilderness, Tasmania (1992); at centre Kelp detail, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Kelp detail, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Drying kelp at Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, ‘Macrocystis’ and ‘Hormosira’ seaweed, Tasmania (1987); and at right Giant kelp, Hasselborough Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Douglas Gorge, Douglas-Apsley National Park, Tasmania (1989); and at right, Waterfall Valley, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Waterfall Valley, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon, Tasmania (1979); and at right, Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Lichen on dead eucalypt, Lake Dixon, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Rock platform, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (1945-96) was one of the world’s foremost wilderness photographers. His powerful, reflective and deeply personal images of the unique Tasmanian wilderness had a lasting impact, changing the way Australians think about their environment by making remote nature accessible through images.

Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild draws together a vast sweep of nearly 80 images, shown for the first time in Victoria. The exhibition was initially developed by the National Library of Australia from their comprehensive collection of Dombrovskis’s work.

Through their use in environmental campaigns, Dombrovskis’s images have become shorthand for environmental concerns in Australia. Particularly memorable was the image Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend that Bob Brown (later to become Leader of the Greens Party) used in the ‘No Dams’ campaign to save the Franklin River.

Seldom in the history of photography has there been as clear an example of visual culture bearing such political sway and prompting such passion in communities.

‘Dombrovskis’s ability to capture the sublime beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness led to his work becoming synonymous with the Tasmanian Wilderness conservation movement. Dombrovskis once commented “photography is, quite simply, a means of communicating my concern for the beauty of the Earth.” His work was his voice and it powerfully evoked his passion for the environment which inspired the nation to work for its protection. MGA is thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase Dombrovskis’s practice to Victorian audiences, and to inspire a new generation to embrace his unique vision and celebrate his legacy.’ ~ Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director

This exhibition was initially developed by the National Library of Australia, Canberra. In 2007, the Library acquired over 3000 colour transparencies that make up the Dombrovskis archive. The photographs on display here, which are also part of the Library’s Pictures Collection, were printed by Les Walkling on Canson Platine Fibre Rag paper by an Epson SureColor P20070.

Monash Gallery of Art and the National Library of Australia would like to acknowledge Peter’s widow, Liz Dombrovskis, and thank her for her guidance and support for this project.

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website Cited 13/03/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Cushion plant mosaic, Tasmania (1980); at middle, Macquarie Island cabbage at Finch Creek, Macquarie Island, Tasmania (1984); and at right, Web and dew, Waterfall Valley, Tasmania (1985)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania (1984)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Myrtle tree in rainforest at Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Icicles near Big Bend, Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1992); at middle, Ice patterns on the Labyrinth, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986); and at right, Ice patterns, Lake Elysia, Du Cane Range, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1995)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1995

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Morning light on Little Horn, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania
1995
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Snow gum on the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Tasmania (1988); and at right Shore lichen on granite, east Freycinet, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania (1989)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Shore lichen on granite, east Freycinet, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania (1989)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Ancient ‘Nothofagus gunnil’, Cradle Mountain, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1986)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill with, at right, Polished quartzite above Irenabyss, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation detail of Peter Dombrovskis’ photograph Polished quartzite above Irenabyss, Franklin River, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania (1979)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Pencil pine at Pool of Siloam, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania' 1982

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Pencil pine at Pool of Siloam, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania
1982
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at middle left, The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1995); and at right, Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at left, The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1995); and at right, Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania (1990)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
The rocking stone, south Mount Wellington, Tasmania
1995
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Peter Dombrovskis. 'Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania' 1990

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Dolerite tors on Mount Wellington plateau, Hobart, Tasmania
1990
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at left, Painted cliffs, Maria Island National Park, Tasmania (1991); and at right, Painted cliffs, Maria Island, Tasmania (1991)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill with, at left, Beach detail with shells, Louisa Bay, Southwest National Park, Tasmania (1993); at middle, Abalone shell at New Habour, southwest Tasmania (1988); and at right, Native pigface, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1995)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania' 1979

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Rock and rapid below Pine Camp, Franklin River, Tasmania
1979
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Snow on pencil pine, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1990); and at right, Fruiting lichen and ice, the Labyrinth, Du Cane Range, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Cradle Mountain from Hounslow Heath, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1982); at middle, Snow-encrusted shrubbery, Central Highlands, Tasmania (1990); and at right, Icicles on fire-killed snow gums, south of Mount Wellington, Tasmania (1990)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Dunes and granite near Interview River, Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania (1990)

 

 

Peter Dombrovskis

Peter Herbert Dombrovskis was born in a World War II refugee camp in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1945 to Latvian parents. His father, Karl, went missing at the end of the war and in 1950 his mother, Adele, moved the pair of them to Hobart, Tasmania; as far from the war-torn Europe and the war as imaginable. Adele was a keen naturalist and encouraged Peter’s photography, buying him a 35mm Zeiss camera to experiment with when he was just six.

In the early 1970s, Dombrovskis established a working pattern of making five or six two-week journeys into the wilds of Tasmania each year. His first calendar was produced in 1972, his first diary in 1976 and his first book The quiet land in 1977. He set up his own publication company, West Wind Press, in 1977. His second wife Liz, continued to run West Wind Press, producing calendars, books and diaries, until 2009. In 1996, while hiking and photographing near Mount Hayes in south-west Tasmania’s Western Arthur Range, Dombrovskis suffered a heart attack and died. He was 51 years old.

 

The sublime

The photographs of Dombrovskis carry on a rich tradition of depicting the wild places of Tasmania as Romantic landscapes. Romanticism was a cultural movement in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries that emphasised the senses, emotion and spontaneity at the expense of order, rationality and intellect. Particularly influential was the Romantic idea of the sublime. Unlike the picturesque landscape, which was attractive and charming but tame and unthreatening, the sublime landscape dramatises nature’s overwhelming power and grandeur. It shows the natural world untouched and uncompromised by human intervention, provoking feelings of awe, even fear, and reminding the viewer that wilderness is a valuable resource to respect, not exploit. Dombrovskis’s images demonstrate nature’s powerful splendour but they also have a quiet, reflective quality that draws the viewer into an intimate conversation with the natural world. This is, perhaps, achieved through his habit of including the unexpected and sensitive details within a landscape, as well as the marvellous and dramatic vistas. Dombrovskis was passionate about the vast and rugged beauty of his adopted home, but also curious about nature, seeing it as both mysterious and welcoming.

 

Influences

The photographer most often connected with Dombrovskis is Olegas Truchanas. The two men shared backgrounds as refugees from war-torn Central Europe. Together the two would explore Tasmania, marvelling at and photographing the beauty of their natural surroundings. They were adventurers and photographers in equal measures and both died in pursuit of these passions. It was Truchanas who introduced Peter to the political nature of landscape photography. In the 1960s, he would stage slide-shows in the Hobart City Hall, pairing his images with classical music and speaking about society’s responsibility for the natural planet. Many of Truchanas’s slides were lost in a bushfire that took his home in 1967, and it was in 1972, when he was out rebuilding his archive of images of the south-west that he drowned in the Gordon River. It was Peter who found Truchanas’s body in the water after days of searching.

‘I like to think I’m carrying on where Olegas left off, in my own way, finishing the work that he started.’

Dombrovskis’s photographic style was also influenced by the great American landscape photographers:

‘I enjoy Ansel Adams for his finely controlled and logical composition; Edward Weston for his intense identification with subject matter; Brett Weston for his strikingly graphic structural forms; Paul Caponigro for images that intimate the mysterious and the unknowable; and Eliot Porter for compositional subtlety and delicate colour harmony.’

 

Legacy

Dombrovskis’s contribution to the environmental movement is profound but his technical ability and artistry as a photographer are equally celebrated. In February 2003, he was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, an honour afforded to only 76 other innovators in the art form’s history. He is the only Australian to be honoured in this way and sits alongside those who influenced him, such as Ansel Adams and Edward and Brett Weston and Eliot Porter. Dombrovskis’s work has been acquired by several of Australia’s major cultural institutions and is part of the collections of the National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and Monash Gallery of Art.

 

Equipment

Dombrovskis’s preferred camera was the Linhof Master Technika. Requiring 4 x 5 inch film, almost 16 times larger than that used in a standard 35mm camera, the Linhof was heavy and cumbersome, forcing Dombrovskis to take more care and time in setting up his shots and making each of these images the result of physical and mental endurance, as well as involved decision-making.

‘… because sheet film is expensive and loading it is slow and tedious, I seldom take more than one exposure of each subject. This occasionally leads to bitter regret when I misjudge exposure after spending, perhaps, an hour on a single image.’

Smaller 35mm or contemporary digital cameras would have allowed Dombrovskis ease of use and immediacy, but this would have come at the expense of the extraordinary detail he could achieve with his Linhof. When walking for a week in the wilderness, Dombrovskis carried the required supplies, as well as the camera and around 50 sheets of film; a heavy pack in rugged terrain.

 

Tasmania

‘I took photographs for the simple pleasure of recording objects and places that were important to me, and because the discipline of photography increased my awareness of Tasmania’s beauty and made me appreciate more clearly the value of its wilderness.’

The work of Dombrovskis helped to change perceptions of the Tasmanian wilderness. In 1982 the area that he photographed was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. His photograph Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River, Tasmania (1979), which is located at the beginning of this exhibition, was integral to the successful campaign to prevent the Tasmanian Hydro Electric Commission damming the Gordon and Franklin rivers.

Dombrovskis’s photographs showed Australians what would be lost under the waters of a dam should the hydroelectric scheme go ahead, and many credit this image as helping to sway the Federal election in favour of Bob Hawke’s Australian Labor Party, which promised to save the Franklin River. It is rare and noteworthy that a photograph might carry such social and political sway.

Exhibition label text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing, at right, Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1981)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1981

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Rock lichen (Crustose lichen), Lake Rodway, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania
1981
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Bark of snow gum, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1987); and right, Red phase of deciduous beech, ‘Nothofagus gunnii’, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania (1988)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Red phase of deciduous beech, 'Nothofagus gunnii', Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania' 1988

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Red phase of deciduous beech, ‘Nothofagus gunnii’, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania
1988
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Frost on snow berry (Gaultheria hispida) leaves, Milles Track, Mount Wellington, Tasmania, June 1990' 1990

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Frost on snow berry (Gaultheria hispida) leaves, Milles Track, Mount Wellington, Tasmania, June 1990
1990
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation views of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo (1985); and at right, Reflections in mist, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania (1994)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo (1985)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo' 1985

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Limestone pinnacles on Mount Api, Sarawak, Borneo
1985
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Reflection pool, Walls of Jerusalem National Park,Tasmania (1990); and at right, Morning mist in myrtle forest, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania (1981)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1988

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1988
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild' at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dombrovskis: journeys into the wild at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill showing at left, Lake Oberon, Western Arthur Range, southwest Tasmania (1988); and at right, Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania (1992)

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania' 1992

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Richea scoparia in bloom below Halls Buttress, Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania
1992
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96) 'Cushion plants, Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania' 1984

 

Peter Dombrovskis (Australian, born Germany 1945-96)
Cushion plants, Mount Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania
1984
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia and the Estate of Peter Dombrovskis

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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19
Nov
13

Three exhibitions: ‘Henri van Noordenburg / Efface’; ‘Amber McCaig / Imagined Histories’ and ‘Greg Elms / What Remains’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th – 23rd November 2013

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Three solid exhibitions at Edmund Pearce Gallery. All three have interesting elements and strong images. All three have their positives and negatives.

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Henri van Noordenburg presents us with a European, colonialist take on the Australian landscape in his new series Efface, similar in their vernacular to early Australian painters visions of their new homeland, with their longing for an “original” home many leagues away over the sea. Except Noordenburg’s interventions look nothing like any Australian landscape I know, heavily influenced as they are by the work of French artist and engraver Gustav Doré (1832-1883) and Japanese wood block prints. His dark, brooding, subterranean art works – in which the artist photographs himself naked and bruised, prints this image on a large sheet of black photographic paper, then hand carves the landscape with a scalpel back into the paper base, isolating but at the same time surrounding the vulnerable, exposed body – image a gothic, melancholy vision of man lost in the wilderness. Here the body (self) is helpless before various forces, but these forces must still be engaged before some progress (pilgrims progress?) can be made.

The technique is truly extraordinary and the artist sets up a “perceptible tension” between technique and form, etching and photograph, body and bulimic (as in excessive), landscape. These ‘synthetic landscapes’ whose form is produced by spatial reorganization and topographical interventions, man-made spaces, serve as background for what the artist wants us to see as our collective existence.1 Unfortunately, the conceptualisation of the work seems, well, a little confused. And perhaps that is the point. Noordenburg, with his Dutch heritage, is apparently still unsure of his place in a multicultural Australia, even after a few decades living here. But, I feel his point of departure for this work still remains uncertain. And this leads to uncertain outcomes for the viewer.

This uncertainty in the point of departure makes it difficult for the viewer to empathise with the stylistic inclinations of the landscape or the work as a whole. Somehow, it all seems so remote from too much. We can all sympathise with the “humanity” of the work, its anguish and sense of dislocation and wish it well, but I was left a little non-plussed by the visual evidence presented to me. If the exhibition was about wildness (not wilderness) and craziness (not a form of identity dislocation), then it would have been spot on:

“God against man. Man against God. Man against nature. Nature against man. Nature against God. God against nature. Very funny religion!”

D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966)

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Amber McCaig’s series Imagined Histories image “contemporary people captured by a sharp technology… [as they] aspire to join the consciousness of another epoch” (Robert Nelson). Small, intense prints, hung in pairs, re-present figures dressed in renaissance costume acting out the fantasy of living in a romantic, historical era. The portraits are paired with still life of wooden boxes filled with allegorical objects full of symbolic representation. The portraits are strong (the incongruity of an Asian knight is particularly effective), and the relationship between portrait and still life is ambiguous and nuanced. However, the still life become repetitive with the constant placement of images at the back of the box coupled with objects situated towards the front of the box. A study of the magical boxes of the artist Joseph Cornell would have been beneficial in this regard.

I feel that there needs to be more layering in the construction of the individual photographs and between the works in the series as a whole, not just the pairs of images. While the work is a little one dimensional in this imagined time, this is a good beginning to an ongoing investigation.

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While Sally Mann’s body of work What Remains is the rolled-gold standard for this kind of work, Greg Elms series What Remains offers an interesting forensic amplification of skeletal “nature”. These animalistic portraits of nature mort are eloquent, strong and forthright. Some work better than others. The Cheetah skull, the Vervet monkey skull (with Rayban Aviator sunglass eyes) and best of them all, the magnificent, constructivist Black cockatoo skull – are all haunting in their deathly presence. Some of the smaller skulls lack these works muscularity, especially when they are printed horizontally on a vertical piece of photographic paper, which simply does not work.

Whether the series needed the ironic commentary of the titles, or the trope of hanging the conceptualisation of the series on the back of global warming, is also debatable. I think the best images are strong enough, and the conviction of the artist obvious enough over numerous bodies of work, that the viewer does not need to be spoon fed this rationalisation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Edmund Pearce Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Gustave Doré. llustration of Lord Alfred Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' 1868

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Gustave Doré
llustration of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King
1868

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Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition X' 2012

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Henri van Noordenburg
Composition X
2012
Hand carved archival pigment print
106 x 106 cm

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“Abstracted within the landscape, the artist features as the protagonist facing the threats of a seemingly hostile bush. Efface references The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden with a focus on the overlaying of a European aesthetic on the physical and intellectual landscape. Starting with self portraits set amid a featureless black background, the photographic surface is hand etched to reveal the landscape.

Van Noordenburg describes the process of self-nude photography as an “incredible mix between strength and weakness, frustration and containment a feeling of euphoria and adrenaline”. Feelings, which mirror van Noordenburg’s attempts to assimilate within a dominant culture.”

Text from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition XXI' 2013

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Henri van Noordenburg
Composition XXI
2013
Hand carved archival pigment print
30 x 30 cm

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Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition XXII' 2013

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Henri van Noordenburg
Composition XXII
2013
Hand carved archival pigment print
30 x 30 cm

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Henri van Noordenburg. 'Composition XXIII' 2013

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Henri van Noordenburg
Composition XXIII
2013
Hand carved archival pigment print
30 x 30 cm

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Between Here and There

The figure that haunts these images is far from a signifier of passivity and calm. Dwarfed and subjugated by that which surrounds, his naked form seems deep in the throes the landscape’s implicit bewilderment and assault. His pallid, naked flesh is scarred and reddened and soiled, the reproach of this eerie land leaving an acrid evidence.

The work of Henri van Noordenburg veers towards the anxieties of juncture, displacement and exodus – art history, religious mythology, the socio-cultural tropes of migration and dislocation and the tensions of the photographic medium underlie his visual and allegorical language.

Indeed, the sensibilities and narratives that punctuate the Dutch-born artist’s new series, Efface, are significant on several levels. The immediately perceptible tension is that of technique and form. Beginning their lives as nude photographic self-portraits (the body set against a vast, featureless, black backdrop), van Noordenburg’s renderings of the Australian landscape and wilderness are in fact painstakingly realised hand-etchings. The photographic surface is an amalgam, the physicality of the photographic object unmistakable. In an era of fluctuation and change for the now ubiquitous digital form, van Noordenburg attempts to reengage, reinterpret and gain further understanding of the photograph’s physical roots.

The formal and stylistic inclinations that the artist achieves via such a process offers another intriguing layer. Resting upon the myth of the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, this loaded series operates in the shadows of art history, forging a Romantic European imagining of the landscape and broaching its loaded colonialist underpinnings. Just as van Noordenburg’s photographic visage wanders a landscape created via the hand and the imagination, the European man stalks the myth of the non-European landscape as a base, inhospitable threat. Allegories and references double back on one another; themes of movement, displacement, exile and expulsion break bread with the iconography of the colonialist gaze.

That it is van Noordenburg’s own image that haunts these works – his body writhing, crouched or prone amid the bush – proves telling. Though living in Australia for the best part of two decades, the artist is an outsider in a nation that remains in acute denial of the extent of its immigrant foundations. Whether white, black, yellow or brown, the great myth of a quintessential Australianness – one that exists on a plane distinct from the cultural melange that marks the Australian reality – threatens to dislocate all who fail to blindly buy in.

In the suite of works that populate Efface, van Noordenburg sets himself adrift, haunted by his own place in history, mythology and the wider Australian scheme. Though we live in an increasingly borderless and post-national world, some things tend not to change.

Dan Rule

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Amber McCaig. 'Ute von Tangermunde' 2013

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Amber McCaig
Ute von Tangermunde
2013
Archival pigment print
48 x 33 cm

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Amber McCaig. 'Untitled VII' 2013

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Amber McCaig
Untitled VII
2013
Archival pigment print
48 x 33 cm

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“Using a combination of portraits and still life elements, Amber recreates an exploration into the idea of identity and imagination, providing an insight into what it is like to live out fantasies in everyday life. Laden with armour, treasure chests, maps and lore, these fantasies show the power of our imagination and what is possible if we dare to dream.”

Text from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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Amber McCaig. 'The Knight Errant' 2013

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Amber McCaig
The Knight Errant
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42 cm

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Amber McCaig. 'Untitled IV' 2013

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Amber McCaig
Untitled IV
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42 cm

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Amber McCaig. 'The Knight' 2013

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Amber McCaig
The Knight
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42 cm

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Amber McCaig. 'Untitled III' 2013

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Amber McCaig
Untitled III
2013
Archival pigment print
60 x 42 cm

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Greg Elms. 'We knew it was serious, but we were kind of busy (Black cockatoo skull)' 2013

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Greg Elms
We knew it was serious, but we were kind of busy (Black cockatoo skull)
2013
Archival pigment print
85 x 110 cm

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“This taxonomy series of large-scale prints, which acts as an amplification of its forensic nature, is an examination of where our relationships with animals are headed. Whilst those with vested interests may deride climate change, it is beyond dispute that there is a decline in many species of fauna (and flora). In 21st century life, where the distractions are numerous and social media pervasive, 24-hour news counteracts important issues amidst a blur of information overload… Elms work investigates the natural world exploring themes of reality, mortality and the sublime.”

Text from the Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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Greg Elms. 'It got overrun by other news (Wombat skull, aerial view)'  2013

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Greg Elms
It got overrun by other news (Wombat skull, aerial view)
2013
Archival pigment print
70 X 55 cm

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Respice post te!

There is something incredibly human about Greg Elms’ latest suite of works. Something uncannily and immediately recognizable in these gaping eyes and grimacing teeth. What links each of the ‘individuals’ here is very simple. It is not just death, it is the cause of death. These are forensic portraits of homicide victims, genocidal talismans for the perpetrator. Enjoy them, for it is we who must plead futile innocence.

Stripped of fur and flesh, they were beforehand stripped of the flora and fauna that sustained them, they were humiliated, out-numbered and out equipped and we? Well it’s simple. We needed more coffee plantations, more timber, more cultivation, more food for our yapping pets.

I’m not suggesting here that Elms is some kind of tree-hugging animal lover. But I am saying that, like the best forensic analysts, he has identified his victims well.

Elms himself gives away much of the story behind this cruelly grinning menagerie. Think of how many times in recent decades you have read the kinds of commentary that Elms utilizes here as titles; “We knew it was serious, but we were kind of busy,” “Lobbyists were employed to dispute the facts,” “It got overrun by other news,” “We felt like we were helpless,” “It would’ve been fine if Newscorp was onside.”

These are everyday, generic comments. All too much so. think: Global Warming, human genocide, animal extinctions. Just everyday comments accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. One could add “too late now.” Elms himself adds: “Everything comes and goes…”

But if there is beauty in Apocalypse then Elms has found it. There is an elegance alongside a silence in these animalistic portraits of nature mort. These un-furred memento mori.

The Latin phrase, memento mori, translates essentially as “Remember that you must die.” Another translation of the term reads Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento – Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! But here in Elms’ portraits it is the Vervet Monkey, the Black Cockatoo, the Cheetah. Indeed, the only thing missing is the skull of the human.

But there is time enough for that…

Ashley Crawford

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Greg Elms. 'We felt sort of helpless to stop the extinction (Cheetah skull)' 2012

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Greg Elms
We felt sort of helpless to stop the extinction (Cheetah skull)
2012
Archival pigment print
110 x 85 cm

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Greg Elms. 'You won’t get away with this for much longer (Vervet monkey skull)' 2011

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Greg Elms
You won’t get away with this for much longer (Vervet monkey skull)
2011
Archival pigment print
110 x 85 cm

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1. Jackson, J. B. Discovering the Vernacular Landscape. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984, p. 8 quoted in Goldswain, Phillip. “Surveying the Field, Picturing the Grid: John Joseph Dwyer’s Urban Industrial Landscapes,” in Goldswain, Phillip and Taylor, William (eds.,). An Everyday Transience: The Urban Imaginary of Goldfields Photographer John Joseph Dwyer. Crawley, WA: University of Western Australia Publishing, 2010, p.75.

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Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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21
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness’ at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 1st October 2011

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“The ‘Moral Meaning of Wilderness’ exhibition is a tour of the various approaches to the landscape: ‘plein air’ painting, studio landscape work, sublime landscape, historical evocation of landscape, modernity and the landscape, natural disaster, childhood memory of a landscape, woman in the wilderness. The ‘After Image’ works seem to refer to fantasies, inner space, unnameable objects, microcosm and immense space. Within the representation of “the land” one easily forgets that we are dealing with complexity and a field of projections. The political, the sublime, the moral stance, corporate destruction and the future of our environment come to mind.”

Juan Davila 1

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“In a state of grace, one sometimes perceives the deep beauty, hitherto unattainable, of another person. And everything acquires a kind of halo which is not imaginary: it comes from the splendour of the almost mathematical light emanating from people and things. One starts to feel that everything in existence – whether people or things – breathes and exhales the subtle light of energy. The world’s truth is impalpable.”

Clarice Lispector 2

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Simply put, this is the best exhibition I have seen in Melbourne this year.

Feminine jouissance is critical to an understanding of the work of Juan Davila (see quotation below). It is the jouissance of the Other: ineffable, incapable of being expressed, indescribable, unutterable. Also critical is an understanding of the meaning of ‘wilderness’ and ‘after image’.

Wilderness “is a relative term suggesting the perspective of a visitor or interloper for whom the landscape is wild and Other – for the landscape was neither wild nor foreign to its original inhabitants, at least not until its transformation through colonising, farming and displacement.”“An after image … is an optical illusion that refers to an image continuing to appear in one’s vision after the exposure to the original image has ceased.”4

The most powerful works are the Wilderness and After Image paintings. Grouped together in a room at the far end of the gallery, the effect of these paintings is to be physically surrounded by the nebula of the unconscious mind. The feeling is not dissimilar to being consumed by the abstract, elemental quality of Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies) at the Orangerie in Paris. Pair to more earthly landscapes (see images 2 and 3 below) the paintings are the closest experience in approaching the divine that I have felt in a long time. Their visual and noumenal ‘energy’ is superlative.

Robert Nelson observes that, “The after-image is a momentary body-memory – not intellectual but bizarrely willed – perhaps a bit like the recollection of a dream or the instant slip that uncannily reveals the unconscious. In monumentalising this trace, Davila delivers us to another ethereal zone: the breath of libido, buffeted by clouds of repression and misty internalised myths. As portraits of evanescent memory, they are wantonly memorable.”5

Indeed, they are memorable. I had a spiritual experience with this work for the paintings promote in the human a state of grace. The non-material, the unconceptualizable, things which are outside all possibility of time and space are made visible. This happens very rarely but when it does you remember, eternally, the time and space of occurrence. I hope you have the same experience.

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Many thankx to MUMA for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version.

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“The term jouissance, in French, denotes “pleasure” or “enjoyment.” The term has a sexual connotation (i.e., orgasm) lacking in the English word “enjoyment”, and is therefore left untranslated in English editions of the works of Jacques Lacan. In his Seminar “The Ethics of Psychoanalysis” (1959–1960) Lacan develops his concept of the opposition of jouissance and pleasure. The pleasure principle, according to Lacan, functions as a limit to enjoyment: it is the law that commands the subject to ‘enjoy as little as possible’. At the same time the subject constantly attempts to transgress the prohibitions imposed on his enjoyment, to go beyond the pleasure principle. Yet the result of transgressing the pleasure principle, according to Lacan, is not more pleasure but pain, since there is only a certain amount of pleasure that the subject can bear. Beyond this limit, pleasure becomes pain, and this ‘painful principle’ is what Lacan calls jouissance.

In his Seminar “Encore” (1972–1973) Lacan states that jouissance is essentially phallic. That is, insofar as jouissance is sexual it is phallic, meaning that it does not relate to the Other as such. Lacan admits, however, that there is a specifically feminine jouissance, a supplementary jouissance, which is beyond the phallus, a jouissance of the Other. This feminine jouissance is ineffable, for both women and men may experience it but know nothing about it.”6

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Juan Davila
Wilderness
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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Juan Davila
A Man is Born Without Fear
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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Juan Davila
After Image. A Man is Born Without Fear
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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Juan Davila
Churchill National Park
2009
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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“The Moral Meaning of Wilderness features recent work by Juan Davila, one of Australia’s most distinguished artists. The exhibition sees Davila turn to the genres of landscape and history painting, at a time when the environment is as much a political as a cultural consideration. With technical virtuosity, Davila’s striking representations of nature achieve monumental significance, depicting beauty and emotion while addressing modern society’s ambivalence to nature and increasing consumerism.

The Moral Meaning of Wilderness represents a radical shift in Davila’s practice, whilst continuing to explore art’s relationship to nature, politics, identity and subjectivity in our post-industrial age. Davila pursues his exploration of the role of art as a means of social, cultural and political analysis.

While many contemporary artists turned away from representation of the landscape, due to its perceived allegiance to outmoded forms of national identity and representation, Davila has recently sought to revisit and reconsider our surroundings au natural.

His paintings are, at first view, striking representations of nature. The paintings, created since 2003, are undertaken en plain air, a pre-modern technique based on speed of execution in situ, and the use of large scale canvases characteristic of history painting. He has also employed other techniques such as studio painting and representations of the landscape with reference to the sublime, the historical, memory and modernity.”

Text from the MUMA website

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Juan Davila
The Painter’s Studio
2006
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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Juan Davila
761 Wattletree Road
2008
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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Juan Davila
What About my Desire?
2009
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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Juan Davila
Australia: Nuclear Waste Dumping Ground
2007
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

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1. Davila, Juan quoted in “After Image: A conversation between Juan Davila and Kate Briggs,” in Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness catalogue. Canberra: ANU Drill Hall Gallery, 2011, p.53.

2. Lispector, Clarice. Discovering the World. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1992, p.122 quoted in Briggs, Kate. “Painting, an act of faith: Moments in the work of Juan Davila,” in Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness catalogue. Canberra: ANU Drill Hall Gallery, 2011, p.8.

3. Delany, Max. Introductory speech for “Contemporary Visions & Critiques of the Landscape.” Video of session. The Festival of Ideas, The Pursuit of Identity: Landscape, History and Genetics. The University of Melbourne [Online] Cited 21/09/2011.
http://ideas.unimelb.edu.au/events/contemporary-visions-and-critiques-of-the-landscape

4. Anon. “Afterimage” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 21/09/2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterimage

5. Nelson, Robert. “Exhibition does not take air lightly,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, September 21st, 2011, p.17.

6. Anon. “Jouissance” on Wikipedia. [Online] Cited 21/09/2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jouissance

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Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)
Ground Floor, Building F.
Monash University Caulfield campus
900 Dandenong Road
Caulfield East, VIC 3145
T: 61 3 9905 4217

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday 12-5pm

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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