Tree Line: the encompassing area of inhabitable land for plants, animals and other interdependent species as dictated by environmental elements. A naturally occurring boundary, while appearing solid from a distance, a tree line is created through a gradual transition in most places.
The tree line exists as a natural reaction between landform and life, an amalgamation of cohabitants drawn together through nature’s elements such as winds, tides, time and in some instances re-vegetation through fire. Life and creativity forge new ground, evolution through the relating of elemental forces thrown together, responding to tensions, defining themselves with and against the ‘other,’ collectively complimenting one another’s needs, creating cohabitation through a symphony in symbiosis.
This is how we, the artists of ‘Tree Line’, have related to our title. The challenge was set to attend a twelve week group residency largely in absence. Although I was present for the entire duration in the studio at Level ARI in Brisbane, the other artists were separated geographically, scattered in cities across Australia and Asia, so it was effectively a residency attended by correspondence. Making use of online social networks we attempted to manifest some kind of collective thought and creativity, the purpose of which was an experiment in itself about the processes of collaboration and synchronicity, through which to discover the end result being, the exhibition. As a collection of artists engaged in independent practices, forging niches from the collective unconscious; a place artists aspire to reach a consistent connection with, little more is needed than opportunity to influence and inspire elemental shifts in perspective that can align us. This is how we have sought to bring a collection of disparate art forms and practices into harmony and punctuation through a project that has attempted to foster both complimentary and contrary relationships where the push is equally compelling as the pull.
The resulting works expressed a tendency toward themes related to connectedness, or a longing for it, a means of defining oneself in relation to a context whether that may be a place, a time or a community. The themes that emerged in the artworks were strongly connected to those relating to a set of challenges in conceptualising the project and the nature of collaboration itself. It is interesting to see that the concerns of the initial hypothesis have informed the artists focus and the overall makeup of the exhibition in this way, especially when considering that the thematic direction was completely open, intentionally leaving space for self definition within the context of the gallery walls and the group’s individual trajectories.
Linda Tegg’s DVD and installation work ‘Tortoise’ explored relationships between the space of the gallery, the artwork and its audience. Concepts repeated in Tegg’s practice, but in this instance she has played choreographer in coordinating a group of people moving as one organism, constructed out of mirrored shields that neatly conceal the human mechanism of the creature within. The reflective planes work collectively as a liquid none space or blind spot in the gallery, while the physical presence of the shields define a barrier, the witnessing of which flickers between real and unreal, tangible and completely fluid.
Lucy Griggs presents a series of small finely detailed water colour paintings depicting everyday images from her new home in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a country transitioning from Soviet communist rule and newly coming to terms with ideas of democracy, capitalism and personal freedom. Her images capture this moment in history with all its contrasts and contradictions, whilst the works possess elements of hope and beauty along with generous nostalgia for the past, the images in all their subtlety also hint at a darker, more shadowy side to life amidst the soviet legacy.
Nicola Page’s works, painted behind glass present a window into an imagined space, the unreality of the ideal specifically in relation to home and environment and a local history. There is a push here between hope and idealism against its potentials and pitfalls as defined and measured by reality and tested through time.
Trudi Brinckman’s hanging sculpture, an ode to home, transience and homelessness is constructed with plastic bags, homeless blankets and wire, materials collected from the streets Paris during a previous residency. The permanency of the plastic materials directly contradicts the ephemeral quality of the brightly coloured, weightlessness of the hanging sculpture with its subtle responsiveness to the air currents generated by any movement within the space. Hanging within a small, frail house frame on the floor, a single lit domestic light globe sits as a warm reminder of the need for a sense of home within our inhabited spaces and communities.
Saskia Pandji Sakti’s photographic portraits speak of the emotional displacement of people living with chronic and long term illness and the implication of marginalization imposed by un-wellness. The images take strong cues in representation familiar to fashion photography with a certain seamless studio finish, this however only proves to heighten the lackluster of her subjects and their personal struggles experienced every day, ultimately illustrating a sense of displacement and disengagement from a broader cultural sphere.
Utako Shindo, in referencing the poem ‘Tintern Abbey’ by Wordsworth, shares the experience of the author in returning home after many years in absence. The poignancy of such universal themes are highlighted as this experience transcends time and place, defying any cultural implications of the text by the English poet written in 1798, printed on the delicately translucent Japanese paper. The text is framed by Shindo’s photographic portraits and the local Japanese landscape, layered over the mind’s eye of its inhabitants as the work reflects on a connection to memory and its presence in the experience of the present.
Much of the value in undertaking a residency is found in the offering of time for process and development, along with a shift in environment that brings an entirely new perspective for investigation and to push against. Many of the artists involved in this project had re-located to new countries or cities within a few months prior to beginning the residency, for others discussions and concerns of these shifts informed investigations or may have inspired reflection on other kinds of connections to other forms of environment. Ultimately the aim is just an aim, always intended to be superseded, the eventual outcome leaving plans and objectives in the dust of potential and possibility, much must be discarded in order to produce an actual endpoint. Through a collaborative process of transparency and open communication boundaries can be set organically in a harmonious manner where authenticity is nurtured and nothing of true value is ever entirely dismissed.