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A gothic approach to our coast

Ron Nyisztor (curator), ‘Western Current’ ·
Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·

A compact show exploring Western Australia’s coast as the borderline before the immense expanse of the Indian Ocean, “Western Current” features works by eight Australian artists – Robert Cleworth, Di Cubitt, Michael Doherty, Ben Joel, Moira de la Hunty, Gina Moore, Wade Taylor, Paul Uhlmann – most of whom are based in WA.  Curated by Ron Nyisztor, the exhibition is part of “UNDERCURRENT 19”, the second edition of the Fremantle Biennale.

The works in this show avoid any typical depiction of our sunny shores – instead they collectively evoke a sense of foreboding, presenting what the exhibition catalogue calls a “coastal gothic narrative”.

The ocean’s shores are framed as a place of rumination in Moira de la Hunty’s works, where bleak muted hues of waves and sand suggest a loneliness or longing. Each of de la Hunty’s paintings pairs the beach with a reflective surface, suggesting the act of looking back at oneself while contemplating the surrounding vastness.

In other works, such as Di Cubitt’s South Point, the long flat horizon of an endless ocean seems to gesture to the indifference of nature, complete with foreboding dark clouds promising stormy times to come.

There’s a distinct uneasiness running through many of these paintings, from the disjointed bodies in Robert Cleworth’s finely rendered oil paintings, to the bizarre collages of imagery in Michael Doherty’s surreal landscapes. Furthering this sense of unease are hints of the occult and strong links to dark history, including iconic shipwrecks off WA’s coastline.

“Western Current” is an engaging and unsettling exhibition, with the featured works evoking depths far more expansive than the room they’re held in.

“Western Current” runs until 24 November.

Photo by Duncan Wright.

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