23043-RAC-Applications-Open-Seesaw-970x90-1.jpg
Reviews/Visual Art

Rethinking the landscape

4 October 2017

Review: Looking Glass, Gregory Pryor ◆
Art Gallery of WA ◆
Review by Phoebe Mulcahy ◆

Hear “landscape” with reference to the visual arts, and it’s difficult not to think of a deft little Arcadian scene — a gentle sky, a winding road and soft branches reaching across as if to frame the vista. Not forgetting the variations on this theme — countrysides dotted with windmills or haystacks might be more readily summoned up for another person — it’s nonetheless clear that these kinds of paintings signal a period and style that has long been consigned to the past. Gregory Pryor’s newly commissioned landscape for the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA), by contrast, is monumental and immersive, bringing together the fine detail of landscape painting with the three-dimensionality of contemporary art.

Despite landscapes’ apparent unpopularity in leading contemporary art markets today, the genre evidently still offers a compelling means by which to explore notions of place and belonging, especially when that sense of place has been marked by dislocation and flux, as in Australia. Stretching almost from the floor to the ceiling of AGWA’s WA Now Gallery, Looking Glass is an ambitious work that draws on multiple themes and materials. Yet with its enveloping installation format, it’s also highly accessible, at first giving the rather wondrous impression of having entered an enchanted forest or quiet glade.

Looking Glass’s landscape is comprised of over one and a half thousand separate sheets of paper, all roughly of A4 scale, and was created with the assistance of students at Edith Cowan University, where Pryor lectures in fine art. It’s striking to notice how much each sheet is dependent on every other — as though pixilated in large-scale, the vast picture that ultimately takes shape can scarcely be discerned taking each sheet individually. Unfolding from the minute to the monumental like this, the “re-assembled landscape” we see stems from Pryor’s own conviction that landscapes should be based first and foremost on the smallest details of a given terrain — that the landscapist should in effect be a kind of botanist as well.

Expansive themes similarly arise from this grounding in fine detail. With the regenerative powers of the Australian bush as its central motif, the work stands as a testimony to death and rebirth. The sites of Esperance’s 2015 bushfires were the principal influence behind the work, and the sense of loss and devastation, at an environmental level, is communicated with great sensitivity. Yet even in the blackest and most desolate-seeming sections of the panorama, new growth is indicated by the little glass beads which are dotted throughout the work, apparently symbolic of dew drops or resin. Together with the gradated blue tones at the centre of the gallery, where every bit of this landscape’s sky has been compressed onto two adjoining vertical panels, we are reminded of the cyclical yet forward-moving presence of nature. In this way, Pryor’s Looking Glass not only gives expression to the complex after-effects of bushfire but can also be seen as a significant reorientation of West Australian landscape painting, as recorded throughout the years at the State Gallery.

“Looking Glass” runs until 15 January 2018.

Top: Detail of Gregory Pryor’s ‘Looking Glass’.

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
seesawmag

Past Articles

Read Next

  • Kiki Saito and Matthew Lehmann in Nils Christe's Before Nightfall. Photo by Bradbury Photography copy Two West Australian ballet dancers on stage - a woman is perched on one pointe, her other leg extended upwards in a split. She arches back, supported by a male dancer. Hitting high notes at 70
    Reviews

    Hitting high notes at 70

    25 June 2022

    Traversing a range of human emotion, West Australian Ballet’s latest triple bill is an evening of beautifully performed contemporary dance, reports Kim Balfour.

    Reading time • 6 minutesDance
  • Cabaret festival. A singer wearing a fur hat is on stage with a pianist, guitarist and drummer. We can see the dress circle seats of the theatre in the background lit in a greenish light. Tributes to musical idols light up stage
    Reviews

    Tributes to musical idols light up stage

    23 June 2022

    A cabaret veteran and opera performer bring very different interpretations of the greats of classical, jazz and pop in the second week of the Perth International Cabaret Festival, writes David Zampatti

    Reading time • 6 minutesCabaret
  • A semi circle of 8 singers, with one standing in the centre, facing an audience. They are in a large hall and there are cnadles, chairs and pot plants decorating the floor around them. Vanguards bring poetry to vocal music
    Reviews

    Vanguards bring poetry to vocal music

    20 June 2022

    Armchair poets become legends in their own lunchtimes in Vanguard Consort’s imaginative Saturday Night Poetry, writes Claire Coleman.

    Reading time • 5 minutesMusic

Leave a comment

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio