Natura is Flux Gallery’s second and final exhibition for the year, bringing together five artists whose works revolve around the concept of ‘nature’ in all its minutiae and grandiosity. In considering “both microscopic and macroscopic”, Natura is equal parts haunting and sublime, an ethereal walk through the natural world with echoes of loss  and longing.

 

In assembling these artists, curator Sandra Murray has accomplished an impressive feat, seamlessly weaving together the elements into a coherent experience, as visitors walk through invocations of clouds, oceans, forests and stone. There are a variety of material forms on display, ranging from works in traditional paint and pencil, to glass, stone and a whole lot of wool; ensuring within a degree of certainty that the exhibition contains something for everyone.

 

Along the back-wall of the gallery hangs Lorraine Biggs’ reflections on the Tasmanian sky. From the massive, four-canvas Space around the turbulence, to the pastels of the seven series Sky musing, the pieces swirl with the romance of lavenders and azure, inviting viewers to step into the calm of the clouds; slow-shifting and patient. A meditative quality permeates Biggs’ work, a sense of timelessness radiating from her interest in the slow art movement. Moving along the same wall and into the gallery’s corner sit the works of Penny Coss, who’s process of allowing thinned-paint to flow down onto the canvas creates an uneasy sense of ephemerality, as if what we are viewing is about to slip through our grasp at any moment. The painting Deep blue considers this transience (hung against the wall drawing Distant plume), incorporating a rich blue streak running vertically down the painting that evokes images of ocean drop-offs and rips in the sea that serve as precursors to tsunamis, a phenomenon which is referenced in the works.

 

Viewers are then brought onto land and into the woods by Kati Thamo. Working in wool and thread, Thamo’s work harkens back to tales of wolves in the woods and warnings not to stay out too late. There is a sense of danger that runs through Once was woodland, Threaded together and I saw you in my dreams, the latter incorporating a poem that considers the impacts of deforestation, suggesting we should not be so afraid of the danger in the woods as much as the danger to the woods (the poem ends with the words ‘there are peppermint trees falling everywhere’). Complementing Thamo’s sceneries, Kate Campbell-Pope’s woollen blankets (Protection I and II and Accumulation) exude protection and safety, the warmth of hot chocolate and a fireplace. The stitchings that creep across the blankets, greens and browns of flowers and lichen, are textured and compositionally distinct, putting on display Campbell-Pope’s attention to detail. From the greys of these blankets we are brought to a wall of stone, Claire Bushby’s exploration of ‘these natural elements as teachers that hold ancient wisdom’. Remarkably, Bushy has managed to work a sense of devotion and respect for these ordinary objects into her work, bringing individuality to each stone in the Moss rock series by incorporating a ‘hat’ of moss made of wool. In the corner of the room, I am a creature of the soil not the sky suspends six balls of wool across a wooden beam, anchored by six rocks. The tension in the piece is palpable and it’s hard not to admire the attention Bushby has paid to her subjects and their materiality.

 

This is a point that applies across all the artists exhibited in Natura. Walking through the gallery, there is a sense these artists see something that we do not, engaged with nature in a way that might often be dismissed as ‘unproductive’ or ‘dallying’. We pass these kinds of scenes everyday and pay no attention to them. And therein lies the strength of Natura: in the gallery these experiences are quietly transformative. They ask questions of the viewer that linger: “When was the last time you paid attention to the clouds? The last time you felt the cool of a stone in your hands? When did you stop to watch a bird fluttering in the branches?” It is ironic that the deafening sounds of construction and traffic outside echo around the Kings Street Arts Centre as you walk through Natura, but it serves to heighten the experience and impetus of the exhibition. In a world so hasty to rid ourselves of the natural in the pursuit of progress, how do we quantify what we have lost along the way?

 

Natura runs for one more week at the King St Arts Centre, entry via Perth Centre for Photography.

Words by Rushil D’Cruz