‘Tree’ Exhibition Weaves Earthy Magic
Bernadette Boscacci, Kathy Cornwall, Marion Gaemers and Robyn Sweeney.
Pinnacles Gallery, Riverway Arts Centre, 31 October – 7 December 2014
review by Dr Anneke Silver
Arborophobia (fear of trees) is a term first coined by Robyn Boyd in his book the Australian Ugliness in the 1970s. Progress has been made since, with councils planting and officially protecting trees, yet on private allotments trees are hardly tolerated. Builders too often clear all trees and replace them with small exotic species. Queensland regulations still state that improving land means clearing it of trees! Trees give us shade, wind protection, oxygen and native trees continue the existing web of life. It is therefore timely to see a thought-provoking exhibition entirely devoted to the Tree. Bernadette Boscacci, Kathy Cornwall, Marion Gaemers and Robyn Sweeney each take different approaches to the theme.
Sheer love and exuberance characterise Cornwall’s large paintings, drawing the viewer into the deepest darks of rainforest: tangling roots, rich moss, shiny wet trunks and rocks. Her catalogue comments are poetic and evocative: “Forms become morphed into flowing currents, slippery secret spaces, for creatures to dwell. Lines tangle, curving… integrated and busy… I ponder on a concept that embraces the chaos of the universe as a kind of perfection”. These works explode with energy conveying the interconnectedness of trees and the whole forest environment.
Gaemer’s art is an environmental statement in itself, her materials can return to nature without causing a ripple. She focuses on seed pods: “the largest tree will grow from the smallest seed”. Her assembly of suspended shapes has an austerity reminiscent of Henry Moore, an exciting contrast between timeless qualities of good form, and the ephemeral nature of the natural fibres used. Her work delicately perches at the intersection between formal approaches, traditional craft and realism.
Enviropairs (Bernadette Boscacci & Robyn Sweeney), the initiator of the exhibition, with Bernadette Boscacci as the Curator, encouraged experimentation and communication of ideas. In contrast to the more celebratory works of Cornwall and Gaemers, Boscacci and Sweeney articulate concerns about degradation of the ‘bush’, poignantly expressed in Boscacci’s Sacred Ash tray – Deathbed: a sculptural installation featuring coloured ash of various tree species encased (coffin-like) in a carved, upturned table. Sweeney manifests concern in Holy Mother of a Tree gets the Judas Kiss– trees marked for felling.
Boscacci has manipulated photographs of individual trees into ‘op-art’ mirror-like images, connecting them with family history and mythological narratives. Her installations of carved and hollowed tree forms are a fresh comment on realism. Sweeney mediates branches and twigs, exploring their potential for meaning in sculptural statements.
In large wall works Sweeney, familiar with techniques of artificial wood graining, juxtaposes these with shapes of the living tree, thereby commenting on our use and love of natural timber and its collision with environmental conservation.
The exhibition is supported by Boscacci’s film projection, dissolving one lyrical tree image into another — playing with light, colour and movement. Her Hollow Sounds (audio installation) transforms the whole gallery into a woodland environment. It ties all the works together and helps to persuade the viewer of the magic and vital importance of trees.
[Reviewer Dr. Anneke Silver is a prominent and well established Queensland artist with more than 30 solo shows, and countless group, invitation and touring shows, to her name in Australia as well as America, Europe and Fiji.]
images available here online catalogue link