Reviews/Visual Art

Braving the elements for extreme art

14 February 2023

Like an athlete, artist Jacobus Capone puts himself through physically and psychologically gruelling challenges in a remarkable art project which brings a small piece of the mountains of Norway to Perth.

‘Falling From Earth’, Jacobus Capone
Moore Contemporary, Cathedral Square

A casual viewing of the central paintings in Jacobus Capone’s “Falling From Earth” exhibition suggests a modest affair – as if someone has soaked canvases in muddy water to create a row of colour swatches in earthy hues which combine for a curious if unremarkable display.

That assessment would be partly accurate but wildly misleading.

A close up photograph of shoulder blades. They almost look like a mountain range.
‘Falling From Earth’ is a glorious testament to the fortitude, physical commitment and creative energy of the artist. Pictured: Jacobus Capone, ‘Untitled (body as a constellation)’, 2022, Giclée print, 111.5 x 82.5cm (framed)

The real story with this small collection is not the end result on the gallery walls. It is the arduous and quite extraordinary steps the artist took from high on icy mountain peaks on the other side of the world to bring the works to Perth Festival.

Perth-based Capone is a master of process-driven art. In a relatively short career he has carved out a distinctive creative path exploring his connection with landscape through physically and psychologically gruelling challenges. Always it is about process, with the how and why at the centre of everything.

In 2020, Moore Contemporary hosted “Piteraq” where Capone recounted his experience of exposing mind and body to an extended period in the dark and savage winter of  Greenland, above the Arctic Circle

For “Falling From Earth”, Capone ventures back to the far north, and places himself in the mountains of Norway as he digs deep into the earth and water – figuratively and literally – to discover and capture the signature of the place. He spent a 90-day residency in Bergen in the country’s south-west where he undertook a personal pilgrimage to honour each of the seven mountains which surround the city.  

Each day Capone covered between 35km and 50km to explore one of the peaks on foot – running, climbing and circling them at their base – and repeating the process each week. In doing so, he sought to uncover everything he could about the land and allow the land to transform him.

Before he returned to home base each day Capone gathered a small sample of earth from the summit which he mixed with seawater collected in the same vicinity. The artist then used these reservoirs of soil-tainted water as a wash to apply to seven canvases, building up a picture of each mountain with hundreds of washes layered over a period of weeks. Remarkably, Capone returned to the mountain the leftover sediment of each day’s haul as part of his devotional practice.

A series of seven paintings, each in a different shade of mottled brown.
Each of the seven canvases represents the ‘dirt-voice of each mountain. Pictured: Jacobus Capone, ‘Devotional Paintings (7 Mountains & the Sea)’, 2022, Seawater tinted with borrowed earth from each of the 7 summits surrounding Bergen, 70 x 70cm each (suite of seven)

Each of the seven canvases represents the “dirt-voice” of each mountain (as beautifully described in the exhibition catalogue essay by Heather Kapplow). 

Perhaps the surprising thing is the distinct range of colours Capone has extracted from soil from a quite localised area, from a dark chocolate to a pale golden ochre and a reddish brown. Displayed together as a single work, Devotional Paintings (7 Mountains & The Sea) presents as a panoramic landscape showing us the shifting sands of the country with patterns emerging and receding in the randomness of the layers of pigment. And scattered throughout are the twinkling sparkles of the remnant salt crystals from the seawater in an apt if perhaps unintentional nod to the Perth Festival’s theme of “djinda”, a Noongar word for stars.

An eighth canvas is a combination of the earthly collections of each of the seven mountains in a gesture that encapsulates the entire experience.

“Falling From Earth” is a glorious testament to the fortitude, physical commitment and creative energy of the artist. As a document of a location and his own place within it, it tells a profound story about the earth which supports us and of which we are all an intrinsic part.

“Falling From Earth” continues at Moore Contemporary until 10 March 2023.

On 25 February, Jacobus Capone will be in conversation with Perth Festival visual arts curator Annika Kristensen at Moore Contemporary.

Capone continues his physical explorations during the Festival with what is described as a durational performance from dusk on 20 February and continuing through the night. The event will be livestreamed.

Pictured top: Jacobus Capone, ‘Untitled (Huagabreen)’, 2022 Courtesy the artist and Moore Contemporary, Perth

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Author —
Craig McKeough

Craig McKeough is a writer and visual artist, with a lifetime’s experience in journalism, covering everything from the arts to horse racing, politics and agriculture. Craig has always been drawn to the swing; an egalitarian, grounding piece of equipment where you can go as high and wild as you want, but you’ll always return to where you started.

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