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Suspended Impressions in Nature: Derwent  

15 November 2012 - 3 January 2013

image of artworkHistory is short. As the human story gathers a momentum turbo-charged by a convergence of energy, biomedical and communication revolutions offered up since the inception of modernity, it offers up a paradox: the further our actions are perceived to stray from the world of nature, the stronger the impression that our species’ seeming aberrations are a stubbornly pre-destined manifestation of it. The city of Hobart, simultaneously integrated into and far-flung from the wider human narrative, offers an excellent laboratory for study of the visual residues of en-masse human toil.

The paintings of this exhibition are based on imagery from internet-based aerial and satellite photography. By combining the traditional Australian landscape idiom with an atypical vertical perspective, pictorial conventions such as the ascent of distance up the picture plane are broken and familiar themes rendered anew. Similarly, an echo of the zeitgeist – in the present conception of the virtual - is integrated into what are otherwise traditional artworks.

Synonymous with social and cultural shifts, the technological filters we place on our perception have altered our view of the land: the electronic documentation of our lives is surprisingly de-personalizing, with a curious silence attached to the online images. By rendering the hum and bustle of humanity as a static electronic visual impression, a gap in perception is left in the viewer as the mind fills in the trajectories of machines and people, the acoustics of the slap of water against a boat’s hull or the drone of ever-present engines as a city passes another day. This distance is built into the paintings, which are executed in the comfort and music of a studio, in another step of removal from the source. It is natural for a degree of self-reference to enter the work.  

The use of painterly methods to depict imagery from a computer screen is conscious and deliberate. In spite of decades of development, no substitute has thus far surpassed the grasped brush for its directness of mark. The interplay between subject, mind and hand is most heightened where stretched linen must be covered – centimetre by square centimetre – with the residue of the artist’s gesture. This is no less true for a virtual landscape subject as for the plein-air experience. 

By generating landscape paintings from imagery of Hobart available on the internet, this exhibition aims to pose questions on the nature of place, freedom of will and the role of technology in our daily experience that are highly pertinent to our time. 

Julian Thompson,
October 2012.