Halinka Orszu­lok

Art Almanac - - Art In Australia - Han­nah Rob­son Jenk­ins

In her photo-real land­scapes, Halinka Orszu­lok in­vokes the haunting wist­ful­ness of night-time en­vi­ron­ments that of­ten ap­pear wel­com­ing or banal dur­ing the day. Her fas­ci­na­tion with the dis­so­nance of ar­ti­fi­cial light in na­ture, the un­com­fort­able line be­tween pub­lic and do­mes­tic spa­ces as well as the psy­cho­log­i­cal re­sponses dark­ness brings cul­mi­nates in deeply re­flec­tive yet un­set­tling works.

Be­gin­ning with her own pho­tog­ra­phy, Orszu­lok painstak­ingly recre­ates the ar­rest­ing, lonely scenes in oil on can­vas, im­bu­ing them with the dual tem­po­ral­ity of a sin­gle-in­stant snap­shot, and the con­tem­pla­tive long-term process of paint­ing. It’s this as­pect that gives her work such a charis­matic aura, in which the act of ob­serv­ing other­wise-un­re­mark­able space can in­stead gen­er­ate an in­tro­spec­tive mo­ment.

‘It has an alive­ness to it,’ says Orszu­lok, ‘where the work hov­ers be­tween those du­al­i­ties of time, and that gives it a life that’s dif­fer­ent to just a pho­to­graph or a paint­ing – it’s both lay­ered over each other.’ This du­al­ity of form adroitly mir­rors the du­al­ity of Orszu­lok’s subur­ban sub­jects. ‘You might take some­thing like a house or a park, that in day­light is en­tirely dif­fer­ent to the night, and it be­comes trans­formed into a mys­te­ri­ous world. I love to play with that and ex­plore the con­nec­tion to the sub­con­scious.’

Since win­ning the 2018 Glover Prize with Ponies (2018) – a sin­is­ter yet play­ful de­pic­tion of a Tas­ma­nian play­ground shrouded in dark­ness – ear­lier this year, Orszu­lok has been hard at work in her South­ern High­lands stu­dio. Her solo show at Flin­ders Street Gallery com­prises all new works that, while not painted from a sin­gle lo­ca­tion, present a united nar­ra­tive of the nos­tal­gia or dis­quiet that of­ten comes with trav­el­ling through pe­riph­eral spa­ces.

The artist shared, ‘There’s that sense of be­ing on the edge of town, of trav­el­ling through the out­skirts of some­where. Maybe there’s the idea of mov­ing through that land­scape and notic­ing how you pass through the world. It’s these thoughts that I have to my­self while I’m mak­ing work, so I do like to feel that there is a con­nec­tion be­tween the works… Trav­el­ling is un­set­tling be­cause you take away what’s fa­mil­iar, but there’s also some­thing nice in the sense of wist­ful long­ing and the way you ex­pe­ri­ence space that makes you look in­side, or be­come more in touch with your­self.’

Fit­tingly, a sab­bat­i­cal year spent trav­el­ling while study­ing at Syd­ney Col­lege of the Arts is how Orszu­lok first de­vel­oped her prac­tice. ‘I took a cam­era as a form of note­tak­ing while trav­el­ling,’ she ex­plains ‘and it re­ally made sense to me. There’s al­ways that el­e­ment of look­ing out the win­dow while trav­el­ling. I was in Eng­land at the time, where it gets dark at three in the af­ter­noon, so there’s a lot of look­ing out at night-time land­scapes. There was some­thing about that English land­scape in par­tic­u­lar; they’re very good at defin­ing space, es­pe­cially the sep­a­ra­tion be­tween pub­lic and pri­vate spa­ces. There is a deep sense of lay­er­ing of the hu­man over the land­scape. I re­mem­ber look­ing at win­dows in hous­ing es­tates and the net cur­tains and I was fas­ci­nated with how light in­side ac­cen­tu­ated the dark­ness out­side.’

This in­tense in­ter­est in the di­vide be­tween hu­man en­vi­ron­ments and na­ture has sus­tained it­self for over a decade of prac­tice, with Orszu­lok con­tin­u­ing to ex­plore this psy­cho­log­i­cal thresh­old be­tween tame and wild spa­ces. Now fo­cus­ing on spa­ces dis­cov­ered in Tas­ma­nia, the Hunter Val­ley and the New South Wales South Coast, Orszu­lok uses this spa­tial ten­sion to rep­re­sent the ur­ban Aus­tralian land­scape, cre­at­ing works that feel at once of-the-mo­ment and strangely time­less. With the trou­bling soli­tude of dark­ness so ev­i­dent in her metic­u­lous work, the land­scapes bear a strik­ing level of re­straint that be­lies their deeply ex­pres­sive un­der­tones.

‘I’m re­ally try­ing to share a point of view,’ con­firms Orszu­lok. ‘And I think there’s an un­der­stand­ing that it’s from a hu­man per­spec­tive. With so many cat­e­gories for the spa­ces we in­habit, I try to un­pick the things we maybe take for granted and un­der­stand why we ex­pe­ri­ence cer­tain places in cer­tain ways.’

Han­nah Rob­son Jenk­ins is an arts writer based in Syd­ney.

Flin­ders Street Gallery Syd­ney 4 Oc­to­ber to 8 De­cem­ber, 2018

Night in the An­thro­pocene, 2018, oil on can­vas, 100 x 150cm Cour­tesy the artist and Flin­ders Street Gallery, Syd­ney

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