Climate change show takes the town by storm

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Mandy Martin ‘Unknown Unknowns,’ 2019 in Hi Vis Futures.

A unique family artistic collaboration that confronts the moral and environmental implications of climate change has been taking the town by storm.

At the centre of the project are two works by painter Mandy Martin and her artist son Alexander Boynes, with son-in-law and WA cellist Tristan Parr providing an evocative soundscape to the mostly large-scale installations in “Hi-Vis Futures,” curated by Virginia Rigney for the Canberra Museum + Gallery.

Visitors to the gallery have been seen standing in awed contemplation of the landscapes which show vistas of industrial and mining operations overlaid with video imagery created by Boynes.

Mandy MARTIN and Alexander BOYNES ‘Rewriting the Score,’ 2019

The two collaborative 10 metre-long installations, “Luminous relic” and Rewriting the score,” have already been shown in regional communities, but curator Rigney has incorporated new individual works by Martin and Boynes into in “Hi-Vis Futures,” saying, “Martin’s paintings are heavy with pigment… Boynes’ images flicker over them [and] Parr’s deep resonant cello hold us in this space.”

This Thursday, (November 28 ) CMAG will embark on an extended public program for the exhibition, “Art + Emotion = Action,” where Boynes and Martin will be in conversation with humanities scholar Libby Robin and social scientist Jamie Pittock, both from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.

Later that day, “a parallel and complementary exhibition,” “Slow Hope,” will open at Beaver Galleries. This sister show was partly prompted by an essay of the same name by German historian Christof Mauch, who put out a crisis call for ordinary people to believe in their power to make millions of small gestures to avert catastrophe.

Alexander Boynes, ‘A break in the clouds’ – ink and enamel on aluminium composite panel

In “Slow Hope” Boynes has created hand-drawn and solvent-washed images on an aluminium background, as his trees and shrubs stand guard against cooling towers and smoke stacks.

Boynes and Martin, one of our best-known artists who now lives in the central west of NSW, have been collaborating for six years on related projects.

We had a chance to catch up with Martin and curator Virginia Rigney recently as they were hanging “Hi-Vis Futures.” To Martin, working with her son through his digital visual overlays to render some of the scenes luminous was “phenomenal.”

“It’s time to absorb the fundamental signs in the water cooling towers, the power stations, Hazelwood, and the biggest goldmine in the Southern Hemisphere,” Martin says. But their efforts were not always appreciated as they found when setting up a tripod in Geelong.

She admits that it’s a literate and intellectually demanding show, with visual references to Brett Whiteley and the appropriation of the expression “Known unknowns” from a 2001 speech by the then UK Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld.

She doesn’t shy away from the possibilities of art practice as a kind of family reunion where the collaborators sit around the kitchen table, saying, “the process evolves organically.”

What is more, she’s noticed her grandchildren growing up with the idea of extinction, and says, “Kids understand.” Martin’s hope is that the kind of work they’re doing elicits an immediate reaction from adult viewers too.

“Art + Emotion = Action,” CMAG, 1-2pm, Thursday, November 28, all welcome.

“Collaboration in Art and Music In ‘Hi-Vis Futures’,” Composer Kim Cunio in conversation with composer and musician Tristen Parr and artists Mandy Martin and Alexander Boynes, CMAG, 1-2pm, Wednesday, December 4, all welcome.

“Hi-Vis Futures” continues at the Canberra Museum and Gallery until February 4.

“Slow Hope: Alexander Boynes & Mandy Martin, “opening at Beaver Galleries, 81 Denison St Deakin, 6PM Thursday, November 28, and then the exhibition continues until December 15.


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Helen Musa
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