Depth drives through dark, industrial landscapes

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“Rewriting the Score” by Mandy Martin and Alexander Boynes.

Visual art / “Hi-Vis Futures” by Mandy Martin, Alexander Boynes and Tristen Parr. At Canberra Museum + Gallery until February 1. Reviewed by JOHN LANDT

MANDY Martin’s landscapes have, during her highly distinguished career, told the story of Australia’s industrial development. 

While the dust and smoke hang over much of Australia, and 80 per cent of koala habitat was recently destroyed by bushfires, this joint exhibition with Alexander Boynes and Tristen Parr portrays the current “nightmarish” situation.

As in Martin’s massive landscape at Parliament House, the paintings in this exhibition carve open the earth and sky. The plunging cliff faces of the open cut mines, the industrial buildings emerging from the darkness and the smoke-filled skies generate feelings of vertigo and claustrophobia. Some smaller works feature vegetation native to the Latrobe Valley and provide a note of hope or resilience.

“Night Shift” by Alexander Boynes.

Dynamic slides by Alexander Boynes overlay the landscapes. They provide depth and animate the scenes – the chimney stacks belch smoke, fires burn, the lights of cars shine through the darkness as they drive through the industrial landscape, figures in hi‑vis work clothes move slowly across the scenes. His own paintings in the exhibition have a strong tactile sense, generated by the printed application of paint on metal.

Sombre cello music by Tristen Parr provides a moving finale – embers scatter before finally being extinguished by the darkness. I’m reminded of the stars going out in Tom Waits’ “The Earth Died Screaming”. An accompanying exhibition at Beaver Galleries displays some smaller works.

The Canberra Museum and Art Gallery is hosting open forums on November 28 and December 4 to discuss issues raised by the exhibition.


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