Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Where Nature meets Culture 1 - The Strange Trees Exhibition


It's easy to lose yourself in David Keeling's "regrowth" forest which is part of a larger work

You could say that this week I have been flat out like a lizard drinking, to use a typically Australian expression that means “I have been really busy,” not that I have ever seen a lizard drinking. No chance to get out into the bush, but I did manage to see a couple of exhibitions, both at least vaguely related to nature

The painting and the installation are meant to be viewed together 


Not so long ago few people had access to photography. Now that photography no longer requires hugely expensive equipment – especially if you have a smartphone, nor darkrooms, nor film purchases and development costs, let alone extensive knowledge of exposure time, film speed and shutter speeds, almost anyone can provide accurate representations of objects in nature or elsewhere which was once the preserve of the artist. This leaves the artist free to bring his or her imagination to the project as well as their feelings, hopes, dreams and memories.  You see this progression in the works displayed as part of the Strange Trees Exhibition which is on at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery until November 25.

Historic trees from Glover's sketchbook 1831 -32 (apologies for the white spots  from the overhead lights)

It begins with the delicately drawn naturalistic trees of John Glover (1830s)* mentioned previously, and meanders through a forest of imaginative interpretations from the vibrant series of fantasy trees by Milan Milojevic, to trees that are now lost to us – those drowned by the damming of rivers and photographs of historic trees which have since been cut down. There are wooden trees made from tree limbs with haunting ghost trees behind them and images of trees caught in glass or on wallpaper, on metal, canvas and linen. Though style, media and themes differ greatly, they all draw attention to the significance of trees in our culture and consciousness. For example, while Helen Wright’s “Wonderland” may reflect on the promise of life within a dead tree, Troy Ruffels’ ”The notes” hints at the downfall that the Tree of Knowledge wrought in the Garden of Eden. It is an eclectic assemblage, pleasantly arranged with interpretation from volunteer guides if you happen to be there at the right time, but I do have one complaint. Diverse as it is, it is nowhere near large enough. I can think of many Tasmanian artists whose work would fit right in, but do go and see it for yourself.

One frame from Milan Milojevic's  wall frieze which blooms like an exotic garden along one wall

My friends at the lichen and briophyte group would certainly appreciate this one - "World that I love - Autumn Camp Penstock Lagoon"by Richard Wastell


* By the way, while I was at the museum, I also had a chance to see the original of the Knocklofty work by Glover, so I have now put that into the post about Glover. Near it are at least five other works by him, but they are a little lost in the range of colonial works. I personally liked coming upon it unexpectedly while walking the hills.

Memories of a  forest - Tiny detail on David Keeling's tree skeletons
(The Museum is open Tuesday till Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enquire at the desk about guided tours)

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