Trickle Down is a finalist in the Fishers Ghost Open award at Campbelltown Art Gallery, opening Friday 6th Nov.
This large flyscreen mesh work on digital print is an extension of the line of enquiry I have been pursuing, using propositional notions of the contemporary urban sublime as a pivot point for considerations of the history of landscape, land ownership and power in the city.
The Romantic notion of the Sublime within art history was in part a reaction to industrialisation and a loosening of the ties of religion and notions of humanism within the wider world. Nature was rediscovered as larger, wilder and more spiritually profound than previously noticed. And within this broader timeframe, in a safer Europe, wealthier Europeans travelled, and the idea of the panorama was developed in response, commodifying the experience of nature (to souvenir the views seen and experiences had, or to view for the first time, for those that could not afford to travel).
In this wider line of enquiry I have taken as a starting point a text by (American land artist) Robert Smithson, from his project, “The Monuments of Passaic” (1967), in which he identified the decaying ‘ruins in reverse’ and ‘zero panoramas’, in describing the unromantic, anti-sublime, urban, industrial service-town near New York. I am repeatedly drawn to Smithson’s critical conflation of the urban landscape with the outcome of macroeconomic actions, the romantic notion of the sublime and the ruin, and a glitching of the expected linearity of time. In this Smithson offers a propositional shattering of our rational expectations of urban landscape and the economy.
In this current series I have been riffing off Australian landscape paintings, and in particular a series of paintings and prints by Eugene von Gerard, who travelled widely in Australia and painted his view of the Australian landscape through a late-colonial frame of reference. His sublime, wide landscapes, occasionally peopled with white settlers or Aboriginal locals stretches out beyond their frames.
I have been reviewing and repurposing these works to open a conversation about out post-colonial understanding of landscape and the urban, including questions about the power of land ownership, and power more generally within the cityscapes that we build and inhabit. Following thoughts initiated in Growth at all Costs! earlier this year I am interested in the performance of power and capital and how Capitalism is performed within the City. With this in mind I was drawn to von Gerard’s human figures within his landscapes, as they frequently gesture in a mode of optimistic ownership towards the land stretching out in front of them.
In Trickle Down, Tony Abbot’s flags stand behind the gesturing climber, as a new building development (drawn from images from the current Barangaroo office development) is envisaged on the Waterboard Falls in the Blue Mountains.
The economic theory of ‘trickle down’, championed by economic drys such as Ronald Regan and friends, argues that giving tax breaks to the super wealthy will allow increased luxury spending, tricking down to poorer people thereby aiding the economy. It seemed a wholly appropriate title for this work.
The feathers and rubber are pure shaman. The economy of the city manifested as white people’s Dark magic. (With assisted visual reference from Victoriana and women’s mourning jewellery.)
Below: Installation view at Campbelltown regional gallery for the Fishers Ghost Prize
Two related works also showing as finalists in the Grace Cossington Smith award, Grace Cossington Smith Gallery, Abbotsleigh School.
Selected as one of 15 finalists from over 300 entries, the two chosen works are a continuation of the above line of enquiry.
Panorama From The Forest to the Mountain (3 Wise Men Look Over the Crown Casino Building Site) (2015) builds a flyscreen mesh mountain out of the shapes of buildings, scaffolding and cranes. Overlooking this mountain are the three figures of white men gesturing towards the mountain. The figures were harvested from 18th-19th century landscape paintings- the explorer Joseph Banks, Eugene von Guerard and the grazier Leigh Sadleir Falkiner.
This work is made from a map of Sydney and a mirrored map, placed side by side. Black sequins cover all areas on which there are buildings and parks, open lands and other un-developed areas have been cut away, untethering the city from its land. The resultant form is a lace like structure, that almost looks like an outcome of medical imaging, offering an alternative perspective on the city.