Review: Visitants: Close encounters with remote Western Australia ◆
FORM Gallery, Perth ◆
Review by Belinda Hermawan ◆
For those of us living in Perth, it can be easy to take our state’s regional beauty for granted. It’s this complacency that is pierced by FORM’s latest project, “Visitants: Close encounters with remote Western Australia”, which saw three artists commissioned to capture the distinct beauty and phenomena of the Pilbara region. The result is a breathtaking series of works, each of which mimics the awe-inspiring wonder of the natural subjects encountered.
The collection of abstract collages by Penny Coss (Sydney-born, Perth-based) displayed at the front of the exhibition are of such staggering height that one feels dwarfed, as one might when confronted with the vastness of the Pilbara desert. The canvas of each piece is stained with blue acrylic, inspired by the blue asbestos running through Dale’s Gorge, and a deep orange-red hue. Added to this are strips of contrasting colour, torn pieces of painted scenery, explains Coss. Gravity has dictated placement; the strips are featured where they fell. In acceding to a natural force in this way, Coss imbues nature into her artistic process and work.
In the centre section, Bewley Shaylor’s sublime photo mural of the lush Karijini rainforest is already impressive as an image, but it’s the addition of a live, projected rainbow that makes Unflattened Karijini, a mixed media installation by Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde, particularly successful. The viewer has the almost God-like power to stand in front of the projection and interrupt the refraction of light.
On a more simple scale is Red Right Shoe, a pair of “before and after” piezo prints of Smilde’s sneakers. White and pristine when brand new, and then covered in red dirt after the visit, the stubbornness of the dirt represents the way in which the Pilbara implants itself in the memory, difficult to shake.
Untitled “atmospheres”, by Consuelo Cavaniglia (Rome-born, Sydney-based), is a vibrant gradient of orange and pink painted directly onto the vast back wall of the gallery. Mimicking the transformation of the sky as the day progresses, the mural creates what Cavaniglia refers to as a sense of impermanency. The colour on white evokes images of red dust and the sun – either strengthening or fading depending on your vantage point – with the selection of pink rather than blue capturing a surprising ephemerality; freshness, transition and rawness. I found the installation difficult to leave; a sunset captured in time.
It’s an oft-quoted adage that one must stand back to truly appreciate a piece of artwork. With “Visitants”, the viewer’s proximity to the work is also part of the immersive experience. Whether we step closer, step back or step to the side, to encounter remote Western Australia we must momentarily travel outside the urban centre of our lives. It’s a journey well worth the reward.
Top: “Partial installation view, “Visitants – close encounters with remote Western Australia”, with works by Penny Coss, 2017. Photo: Bewley Shaylor, c/o FORM.
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