Process: Ho­bie Porter

Artist Profile - - CONTENTS - Ho­bie Porter is rep­re­sented by Art­house Gallery, Sydney and Moss­green Gallery, Mel­bourne.­house­ www.moss­green­

I paInt In pur­suit of a sen­si­tive en­gage­ment with place and land­scape. My paint­ings speak of pre­car­i­ous en­vi­ron­ments, of­ten in terms of ne­glect or loss. I think land­scape paint­ing can be as much about the self as it is about the land­scape; it’s a slip­pery no­tion which cul­mi­nates in my work as an elu­sive po­etic. My aes­thetic is in­volved in a kind of imag­in­ing into land­scape, to rein­voke a sense of its mys­tery and to speak of a quiet, emo­tive re­sponse to place. I live in a sub­trop­i­cal rain­for­est in North Eastern NSW. Spend­ing time alone in the bush is a fa­mil­iar and nor­mal ex­is­tence for me. It has ac­tu­ally be­come an im­por­tant com­po­nent of my prac­tice; I go to the place, which may be as close as a walk out of the stu­dio, or it could re­quire in­ter­state travel. I go there not to do much, other than to feel it out and muse on ideas. In those moments, I am lis­ten­ing to the coun­try and wait­ing for sug­ges­tions. Un­ob­tru­sive thoughts will emerge and re­cur to me in those places. It usu­ally takes time to find a way to ar­tic­u­late these thoughts in a way that is sym­pa­thetic to the par­tic­u­lar en­vi­ron­ment. I may find an ob­ject of in­ter­est on the site, or take a pho­to­graph. On odd oc­ca­sions, ideas will sim­ply come to­gether in an in­stant. Some­times a sim­ple mo­ment like that can pro­vide enough in­spi­ra­tion for an ex­hi­bi­tion. I usu­ally have to re­visit places to in­cre­men­tally work their story out. Each time I do, it is as if I am de­vel­op­ing my re­la­tion­ship with the en­vi­ron­ment, and that process is on­go­ing. I think the prac­tice of lis­ten­ing re­spect­fully in­ter­sects with in­dige­nous re­la­tion­ships to coun­try. It of­fers an in­sight into how and why the first peo­ple de­vel­oped such a re­spect­ful en­gage­ment with place, cou­pled with a pow­er­fully deep sense of be­long­ing. It is an ad­mirable qual­ity. Per­haps this was a sig­nif­i­cant com­po­nent which en­abled a so­phis­ti­cated civil­i­sa­tion to ap­ply sus­tain­able be­hav­iours and re­la­tion­ships with their lands, past and present. In con­tradis­tinc­tion, colo­nial at­ti­tudes in Aus­tralian his­tory were more con­cerned with shap­ing land to suit for­eign in­ter­ests. Many of these prac­tices have proven to be un­sus­tain­able and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. When I lis­ten to a place, I can only trans­late my re­sponse from a Western cul­tural frame­work. It seems ap­pro­pri­ate for me to utilise my in­her­ited Western land­scape paint­ing her­itage, with all the prob­lems that it en­tails. I con­sider my prac­tice to con­tinue that cham­pi­oned in Aus­tralia by 19th Cen­tury colo­nial painter, Eu­gene von Guer­ard. His paint­ings em­pha­sised an ac­cu­rate ren­der­ing of all el­e­ments within the land­scape, pro­mot­ing a very demo­cratic no­tion that ev­ery­thing in it was equally im­por­tant. There is a com­mit­ment to the seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial in von Guer­ard’s me­thod­i­cal paint­ing tech­nique that I like to pur­sue in mine. My prac­tice con­tin­ues the land­scape paint­ing genre, yet not with­out scru­tiny. It (the genre) is dif­fi­cult to navigate in con­tem­po­rary times be­cause of its his­tor­i­cal con­text. It har­bours as­so­ci­a­tions of ro­man­ti­cism, con­quest, colo­nial­ism, na­tion­al­ism, the pic­turesque and the sub­lime. I am in­ter­ested in the im­pli­ca­tions such ideas have when con­sid­er­ing land­scape from a con­tem­po­rary en­vi­ron­men­tal per­spec­tive. His­tory has a way of spilling into the fu­ture if unchecked, some­times even so. The Cor­nu­copia or Horn of Plenty, for exam-ple, has been used since the Gre­coRo­man era to sym­bol­ise abun­dant har­vests. It is an in­nate cul­tural sym­bol that en­dorses in­dul­gence. Abun­dance has never been

greater in to­day’s age, but the con­se­quences of the cor­nu­copian im­per­a­tive for both the en­vi­ron­ment and hu­man­ity are now sharply in fo­cus. We are reach­ing the lim­its of our planet’s re­sources and as such, those sys­tems that sup­ply such abun­dance are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing greater pres­sures un­der an ex­po­nen­tially an­thro­pogenic age. It only took me a short walk on a North­ern NSW beach to col­lect an un­de­sir­able abun­dance of food pack­ag­ing and plas­tic waste, which I then painted, as a way of re­cast­ing and in­vert­ing the tra­di­tional Horn of Plenty.

When in the field, I of­ten come across seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial items that have the po­ten­tial to be­come pow­er­ful agents of trans­for­ma­tion in their larger en­vi­ron­ment. I am prompted to col­lect and take them back to the stu­dio, where I ex­per­i­ment with ar­range­ments and com­bi­na­tions. I repli­cate them in paint, piece by piece, in a trompe l’oeil man­ner. I find these frag­ments will take on an un­canny force en-masse, in­ter­rupt­ing and sup­plant­ing the re­spec­tive land­scapes that ap­pear be­hind them. I use this ap­proach to high­light the com­plex­ity of in­ter­ac­tions that these small com­po­nents have within the larger land­scape. Loss is an im­por­tant un­der­ly­ing prin­ci­ple in my work. It man­i­fests in terms of mor­tal­ity, in­tran­si­gence and ab­sence. I em­ploy loss in an open and in­ter­change­able man­ner; it can act as both an en­vi­ron­men­tal metaphor and a me­mento mori. The al­lu­sion to en­vi­ron­men­tal ne­glect and aban­don­ment tends to in­voke a me­lan­cholic char­ac­ter.

Although the paint­ings sug­gest en­vi­ron­men­tal loss and ne­glect, I am al­ways look­ing for a point of tran­scen­dence. It is im­por­tant for me to re­flect an en­dur­ing beauty in all of the places that I de­pict. The re­sul­tant paint­ings are gen­tle and quiet de­pic­tions of dis­turbed ar­ca­dias. They are not pic­turesque con­ju­ra­tions; they de­pict ac­tual places as I en­counter them. Per­haps it’s a fan­ci­ful no­tion, but I like to think that they are ‘grounded’ in that way.


Hori­zons - A Con­tem­po­rary Per­spec­tive on Aus­tralian Land­scape and En­vi­ron­ment 2014 Mel­bourne Art Fair Moss­green Gallery, Stand A112

01 Horn of Plenty–Spir­ula Spir­ula, 2013, oil on can­vas,

112 x 180cm

02 Hur­ley’s Pass, On a clear day, you can re­mem­ber for

miles, 2013, oil on linen, 105 x 125cm 03 Work in progress–a large work of Tower Hill, from the same van­tage point that Eu­gene von Guer­ard sketched for his work, Tower Hill, painted in 1855. 04 Set­tle­ment, 2012, oil on linen, 42 x 85cm 05 Gen­er­a­tor, 2012, oil on linen, 69 x 90cm Courtesy the artist, Moss­green Gallery, Mel­bourne, and Art­house Gallery, Sydney.

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