|You are cordially invited to attend
Artist talks with
Saturday, Nov. 2, at 3 pm
Saturday, Nov. 9, at 3 pm
Tyler Rollins Fine Art
529 West 20th Street, 10W
New York City
Please join Tracey Moffatt for these informal, Saturday afternoon talks in the gallery about her current solo exhibition, Spirit Landscapes. A reception will follow each talk.
We would like to share with you the following essay about Moffatt’s new body of work by Kathryn Weir, Head of International Art and the Australian Cinémathèque at the Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia.
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When was the last time you lay down on the ground under a forest canopy and looked up through the trees? Tracey Moffatt’s As I Lay Back on My Ancestral Land evokes a state of being where the quiet music of things in themselves becomes audible, when the noise of the self and the city dies down. Then it writes this state large and ecstatic: solarized outlines of leaf fringe and clouds zing in vibrant monochrome hues. Moffatt’s point of view landscape shots merge with floating superimposed images of her body to convey the experience of physically connecting with the land. The view from the ground of sky and trees is radical; photographic conventions favor the heroic tree portrait or the sweep of forest captured from above or yonder.
Spirit Landscapes is the major body of work that Moffatt has completed since moving back to Australia in 2010, after 12 years in New York. It comprises five photographic series and a moving image work that all address aspects of relationship to place, delineating landscapes of the mind and spirit.
To move from New York to a Brisbane childhood’s Suburban Landscape – the title of another of the recent series – is to dive into the past and revisit the memories places contain. These childhood memories return colored by the high-keyed emotions of first-time experiences. Moffatt speaks of how the stenciled water crayon text over the works in this series act like a semi-transparent veil of memory over the streets of her youth. What is remembered reflects a child’s fears and delights. The forbidden sugar rush of stealing a chocolate bar, being pushed terrified against a wall by bullies, the act of throwing soft flower petals in the street – more remarkable than the squinting glimpse of a figure in a passing motorcade. A delicate beauty adheres to the prosaic streetscapes through their association with the bittersweet moments of personal history that unfolded there.
Moffatt finds beauty where it is least expected. In her collaged photographs from the Picturesque Cherbourg series, bright flowers and white picket fences put a brave face on a traumatic history. The town of Cherbourg started as a mission and then a Government Settlement in the early 1900s; Aboriginal people were transported there from all over Queensland and New South Wales after being forced from their land. “The old people don’t want to talk about it, like war veterans,” says Moffatt of members of her own family who were forced to live on the settlement. Yet, rather than photograph Cherbourg in black and white or in the rain to reflect its dark history, she chose to evoke in sun-saturated color the town’s complex fabric of pain and getting-on-with-it resilience. In her picture-postcard images, the collaged fractures and slippages only belatedly come into view.
In Australia as in North America, massacres everywhere attended the “opening up” of land. To create the photographs in the Night Spirits triptychs, Moffatt drove alone at night along isolated roads in outback Queensland. She would stop the car and slowly and deliberately set up a camera, while the small hairs rose on the back of her neck and a tingle of fear sharpened her senses. The resulting intense, luminous images show strange traces populating the night, suggesting some lingering plasma residue of untold lives.
Screen grabs from classic Westerns show a woman gazing across the wide-open prairie with love in her eyes for the land and her man: Moffatt’s Pioneer Dreaming series points to the consistent papering over and romanticization of the occupation of Native American land. The photographic diptychs are hand-colored in ochers that recall the attenuated tones of Albert Namatjira’s watercolor Australian landscapes and the more recent canvases of Rover Thomas. The spare, abstracted beauty of the vistas paired with each dreamy-eyed heroine points to the power of the landscape and the elements to exceed pioneer zeal; Moffatt gestures beyond ideas of possession to leveling notions of awe and responsibility.
The relationship between less romanticized sexual possession and the exploitation of the land is brought into focus in the recent moving image work In & Out. A small digital frame shows a sequence of shaky stills taken at night across a street of figures at the door of a brothel in a mining town, their body language betraying an unwillingness to linger on the threshold. An image of an immense open mine’s gem-like circular cut appears in counterpoint.
Spirit Landscapes constitutes an extended meditation on how we inhabit places and are inhabited by them. Each element in Moffatt’s major new body of work speaks differently to this exploration of place and landscape, looking beyond instrumental relationships to other dimensions. Coming home is also about seeing with new eyes and feeling familiar things anew.
© 2013 Tyler Rollins Fine Art and Kathryn Weir
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