Earthworks
Visiting the current Camille Pissarro exhibition in Sydney, one is struck by Zola’s reference to Pissarro’s early landscapes “we sense that man has passed, rummaging in the ground, carving it up, saddening the horizon”. A more overt, contemporary and Australian feeling runs through the oil paintings in this exhibition, which explore a similar theme. In the Multipanel and Mining series, the contrast between the sublime outback and opencut mines in their various environments is investigated (including the use of yellow paint pigment powder similar to the goethite which naturally occurs at Marra Mamba). The Highway series explores images of the impact of roads, particularly the M3 through the Hawkesbury Sandstone and the Pastoral Series the more “romantic” images of the settled environment (e.g. Mount Sinai is a remembered childhood landscape). In the Bacchus Marsh Series found objects, local rock types, and drawings have been combined to show a dramatic area of landslip-prone iron, clay and gravel rich sediments with remnants of younger basaltic volcanic flows rimming the valley and forming rounded and flat-topped forms. The basement rocks are older glacial deposits overlying igneous and metamorphic rocks. Fire, ice and water have all had a part to play in forming this landscape even prior to mankind’s impact. Whilst this geology makes the valley uniquely susceptible to erosion it also reveals sculptural qualities that the works seek to capture. The stones and drawings reference the importance of the geology and the found objects the impact of pastoral activities. The Water Series seeks to contrast the human earthworks with more naturally sculptured landscapes. Colin Palethorpe, February 2006
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