BREATHING HEMISPHERES (SKIES 66.1100°N, 18.5300°W + 32.0569°S, 115.7439°E)
9 – 26 March 2016
Opening Night Thursday 10 March 6 – 8pm
Lesley Duxbury + Paul Uhlmann
This collaborative exhibition charts a phenomenological engagement with skies and atmospheres across two hemispheres. In October 2015 Lesley Duxbury, artist-in-residence in Siglufjordur in remote North Iceland, documented the sky at key periods of the day and night corresponding with the same times Paul Uhlmann documented the sky from his home base in Fremantle, Western Australia. The artists employed other readily available technology including mobile phone apps to enhance their knowledge, imagination and experience of their atmospheric, breathing worlds.
(SKIES 66.1100° N, 18.5300° W + 32.0569° S, 115.7439° E)
In August 2013 when I was on a research tour in Berlin, immersed in my studies at the Gemäldergalerie, it occurred to me that a world of prints and drawings existed just next door at the Kupferstichkabinett. I only had to saunter southwards, make a written request and wait half an hour for entrée to this immense archive. A short while later I was in the study room armed with my camera, pencil and notebook absorbed with the process of mentally tracing the lines of an artist who had passed from this world some 176 years ago. A German guard was burning holes in the back of my neck as I studied a folio of drawings by Caspar David Friedrich. I’m certain that the guard did not feel that he could trust me with these national treasures. I remarked to him that I wondered if some of these exact, precise pencil drawings might have been rendered using a camera obscura. “Nonsense!” he replied, “It is all made with the hand and the eye!” After moving through a few not so interesting drawings of landscapes and domestic scenes I was face to face with the visage of Friedrich himself. His intense eyes were not quite looking out at the world, but rather, were looking askance, off the picture frame. The lines were faint, sharp and somewhat silvery – almost incised into the paper.
I wondered if the curls that rolled off his muttonchops were based on observations of his hairy face or, if after years of studying the sky, he had subconsciously replaced these bearded parts with tumultuous storms. For his face writhed and twisted with spirals and curls reminiscent of Leonardo’s graphic water storm depictions. His body was part of the world he observed, seemingly infused with the German Romantic Idealist mind-set, which upheld a pantheistic belief of god within nature. Scholars have since argued that such concepts were a misreading of Baruch Spinoza’s philosophy of a unifying world view where god disappears altogether so that there is only nature. It set me to wonder how my own intense contemplation of Western Australian skies these past 20 years might somehow, in some way, also be marked on my body.
- PAUL UHLMANN
(SKIES 66.1100° N, 18.5300° W + 32.0569° S, 115.7439° E)
On 2 October 2015 I walked to the end of the fjord and facing the setting sun breathed a lungful of some of the purest air in the world. This air, close to the Arctic Circle, flowing to me from Canada across the empty expanses of Greenland had been cleansed of all particulates by rain and clouds before it arrived where I stood in this remote spot in North Iceland; it was pure and vivifying, it enveloped me. I breathed it in and I expired it and it became part of me. There are few such places in today’s world where, in industrialised countries, the polluted air is stifling and obscures the sky. Pure, clean air enables clear views through the atmosphere. John Constable sought this out in the early 1800s when, for the sake of his and his family’s health, he moved to Hampstead Heath, the highest point in London, to escape the clouds of pollution produced by the burgeoning industry in the city below. It was here that he painted his seminal Cloud Studies from 1818 to 1823 and through which he demonstrated his interest in the changing states of the weather and different effects of light. Industry isn’t the only producer of air-borne particles and pollution however. Erupting volcanoes spew out millions of tons of ash, darken daytime skies and can temporarily change the climate. In 1816 after three years of ash-laden air following the eruption of the Tamboro volcano in Indonesia, the skies eventually cleared. The poet John Keats, who suffered from consumption wrote to a friend: “How beautiful the season is now – How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather...” The weather literally controlled his life. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010 sent a plume of glass-rich volcanic ash several kilometres into the atmosphere and grounded international aircraft for weeks. Thankfully for Iceland the ash was blown predominantly south, west and eastwards and not northwards where it would have enveloped this pristine country. In June of that year I was able to slip into the country between eruptions and head to the remote north for the first time. Then, as last year, I looked up to the skies and took great gulps of pure atmosphere.
- LESLEY DUXBURY
Lesley Duxbury is a Melbourne-based artist whose work addresses issues concerning the natural environment. Her interests are in the sky and its many manifestations and phenomena, which she draws upon to make print media work that questions our perceptions of the weather and addresses issues such as climate change and sustainability. The phenomenological experiences of extended walks in remote landscapes, such as Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada, Tierra del Fuego and Iceland, are the impetus for her investigations.
Duxbury has been exhibiting for the past 25 years in solo more than 50 selected group shows in Australia, Korea, Austria and Hong Kong. She has undertaken artist residencies in Iceland (2015 and 2012) and the Australia Council VACB studio residency in Paris (1996), and awarded the Australia Council for the Arts New Work (established artist) Grant (2011). Recent exhibitions include: 2015 – Sky Lab: lines of sight and forces of attraction, Counihan Gallery, Melbourne; 2014 – Kyoto Hanga, Kyoto Municipal Museum & Fukuyama Art Museum, Japan; 2013 – Bogong ELECTRIC, site-specific artwork at Bogong Village, Victoria, and Local Weather, Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale; 2012 – Luminous World Art Gallery of Western Australia; and 2011 – 2112 Imagining
the Future RMIT Gallery. Duxbury’s work is held in all major public collections in Australia.
Paul Uhlmann is a Fremantle based artist whose work strives to question and translate philosophies of impermanence and the unifying interconnectedness of all living beings. He works experimentally across the mediums of painting, printmaking, drawing and artists’ books, at times employing the mechanics of simple cameras obscura. In so doing he is absorbed in the process of making – of movement and change, which parallels life itself – for life too is process. The perpetual transition of the sky provides an everyday source of wonder and a constant meditation to his investigations.
Uhlmann studied art in Australia, and was the recipient of a DAAD scholarship to study in Germany (1986-87) and an International Samstag Scholarship to study in the Netherlands (1994-95). He was awarded an Australia Council studio residency grant in Bessozo, Italy (1994) and has recently engaged in research on process and embodiment within art in Shanghai, China (2013 and 2015) and in Berlin, Germany (2013). Uhlmann has exhibited nationally and internationally since 1983 and his work is held in many collections including National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales and National Gallery of Victoria. Recent exhibitions include: 2015 – IMPACT 9: International printmaking exhibition, Henglu Art Gallery, Hangzhou, China; B5761626572, M16 Artspace, Canberra; and artists books and zines saved my life, Spectrum Project Space, Perth, Western Australia. 2014 – Antipodean Worlds, Lakefront on Langdon Gallery, Wisconsin, USA. 2013 – Becoming, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Shanghai, China. 2012 – Luminous World, Art Gallery of Western Australia (touring all major Australian centres).