How is land converted to landscape? What happens to our sense of self when this conversion process occurs? Melbourne artist Simon Grennan explores these questions in Mutual Contamination, an exhibition of paintings that explore the interplay between the objective, ideological, and subjective dimensions of landscape.
The work is part of Grennan’s ongoing re-examination of the subject of consciousness in the context of landscape theory and practice.
This exhibition forms the practical component of his PhD examination. It constitutes the studio component of a sustained investigation into a research question, broadly put: what is the relationship between landscape and consciousness?
The work consists predominantly of small format oil paintings working together in small clusters.
The body of work explores subjectivity in the context of landscape research (particularly at the intersection between art and geography).
A number of formal and representational strategies are used to investigate this relationship but three treatments of the landscape motif are particularly important:
1) the use of the double which becomes a way of emphasising the contingency of our landscape experiences as well as the seemingly dualistic nature of both consciousness and landscape;
2) the manipulation of tone and ambient colour again becomes a means of emphasising contingency but also because these elements are intrinsically totalising/diffusing/unifying qualities, again a key phenomenological feature of both consciousness and landscape and ;
3) the forensic motif. This third element, the forensic motif (apart from its all too familiar presence on our television screens) serves as a kind of case study – as a particular kind of subjectivity, or anti-subjectivity, in the landscape.
It also reframes a key theme in Australian landscape painting and literature: the lost, disorientated, or indeed perished subject in the Australian bush - as epitomised by McCubbin’s Lost (1886). The forensic motif turns this narrative 180°. That is, it switches our gaze to the seeker of the lost subject. As the forensic investigator too is in search of the subject in the landscape – or its trace - it becomes a central metaphor for the research project itself.
3 October - 29 October
Artist floor talk: Thursday 5 October, 6pm
Image credit: Mutual Contamination 2, 36cm X31cm, oil on canvas.