Constructing Landscape presents urban visions

Constructing Landscape: Urban visions 

Caloundra Regional gallery 2020-21

Words by Barnaby Smith

To think of urban landscapes in Australian art is, inevitably, to think of the late Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013) and his slightly clinical, but immensely atmospheric, paintings that depict industrial and city settings. As important as his legacy is, Constructing Landscape: urban visions, a fascinating exhibition at Caloundra Regional Gallery, reflects a new chapter in the nation’s consideration of how the urban environment might be represented.

While acknowledging (and indeed displaying) art in the vein of Smart that explores the geometry and precision of cityscapes, this show expands the idea of urban landscapes to include street art, graffiti, murals and other modes that might be associated with metropolitan culture.

“Most of the works are paintings or works on paper or straight on the wall, and cover all genres: realism, abstraction, pop, skater and street aesthetics,” says Jo Duke, curator and manager of Caloundra Regional Gallery. “And the artists have used paint, ink, photographs, collage, found objects and plastics.”

Many of the 31 participating artists hail from the local Sunshine Coast region, while others are based elsewhere in Queensland, Sydney, Melbourne, or in the case of the New York-based Mark Alequin, overseas. Two artists were commissioned to create temporary mural works, and 13 artists were commissioned to produce work that utilised in some way the ‘witches hat’ or common traffic cone.

Constructing Landscape is the culmination of Duke’s specific vision, and she cites Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Banksy as influences on the exhibition. Duke spent several years living in the coastal Central Queensland town of Gladstone, which has, she says, “an interesting landscape with lots of industry nestled in bush and coastline along one side.”

“However,” she adds, “when exhibitions were held, most of the landscapes were of the mountains, bush scenes or seascapes, and very rarely focused on the extraordinary industrial structures people drove past every day. I hardly ever saw within landscape exhibitions images of urban constructs, when so many of us live within these vistas.”

Duke adds, “I have also always been interested in street art and how it is now considered an important way to humanise and create community links within urban centres. So I became interested in two areas: artists who look at the urban environment and cities we live in, and artists who work on these surfaces creating visual dialogues not only with their communities, but with everyone who passes by and takes time to notice.”

It is testament to Duke’s curatorial nous that Constructing Landscape is balanced in its treatment of urbanity. On one hand, the show pays tribute to the colours, diversity and vitality of urban life; on the other, it mourns the environmental cost of urban sprawl and development.

Duke points to Shae Gregg as one artist who celebrates the modern city; her photographic works are a playful and positive exploration of found objects and public spaces. Another such artist is Catherine Parker, whose delicate and lovingly crafted paintings “incorporate the urban marks within her beautifully rendered landscapes of her town, Toowoomba.”

To balance this, there is the work of Blair McNamara, whose paintings and photography are, according to Duke, “about the loss of his remembered childhood spaces, or as he states, ‘the cultural and environmental conundrums that have developed over the decades in his vulnerable Sunshine Coast paradise.’”

Some visitors might regard it as a paradox that a show about urban spaces is taking place in a regional location. However, Constructing Landscape is at least in part an insight into the aesthetics of the intersection where urban and rural meet (as expressed by Duke in her reflections on Gladstone). Caloundra, surrounded by forest and hills on one side and the ocean on the other, is therefore an appropriate home for such an exhibition.

“Several artists celebrate or recognise that the urban is within the landscape,” says Duke. “I think that urbanity and the changing nature of how we live occurs in regional centres just as much as it does in large city spaces.”

Revolt: Power of Protest

We live in turbulent times. More and more of us are stepping up to fight against systemic injustice and oppression, grappling with questions about what kinds of protest and activism are most effective, and how we can work together to create a better world.As artists, we’re acutely aware that we can’t just sit on the sidelines, and must use our art to challenge the status quo and support positive movements for social change.In a few weeks, Brisbane’s only Greens City Councillor, Jonathan Sri, is up for re-election. We thought this was a great opportunity to make space for conversations about the role of protest and the importance of engaging strategically with electoral politics, while also supporting Jonno’s election campaign.We’re putting on a fundraiser for Jonno and the Greens, alongside a discussion forum about politics, protest and peaceful revolution.Artists have been invited to produce works that double as protest placards, which people can bid for and hopefully use at a future rally.Please spread the word and invite your friends!Contributing artists: Mouf . LEF . Shae Gregg . Dank Zapper . Tilly Dee . Eel . Barry Hate . HAM . KTL . Lugosi . René Danika . Esquidy . Marcel and more TBAFREE ENTRY! Come join us at Bloodhound Bar in the Valley from 5:30pm on Friday, 6 March!

40under40 2020

Top Row L-R: : Daygin Prescott, Lauren Jones, Laura Vecmane, Sally Cuthbert
Middle Row L-R: Ashlee Becks, She Gregg, Tom Bridges, Odessa Mahony de Vries
Bottom Row L-R: Jakob Lydford, Jack Staley, Ketakii Jewson-Brown, Bryce Flaskas This exhibition will showcase the local, young, vibrant and talented art scene in the region who are 40 years old and under!

​Project coordinator and co-curator Amanda Bennetts says, “We have an abundance of talented young visual artists who are from the region  who may not otherwise get an opportunity to showcase their art with other local young emerging and professional artists.”

The exhibition not only aims to showcase this young art scene in the region but also to shake things up by challenging the community’s perceptions on what is considered contemporary art in our regional setting. 

Extending the exhibition to artists from all disciplines, it will include mediums of video, film and electronic imaging as well
as ceramics , drawing, fibre arts, graphic design, installation, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, and sculpture.

Exhibiting artists include: Aisha Darmansjah, Amanda Bennetts, Arki Orchard-Fox, Ashlee Becks, Awen Tawanee, Bree-anne Jeffrey, Bryce Flaskas, Carley Bourne, Cherry Logar, Daygin Prescott, Ebony Dew, Elle Reid, Ellie Graham, Fletcher Gibson, Jack staley, Jakob Lydford, Jim Martin, Karen Lennon, Kerri Louisa, Ketakii Jewson-Brown, Laura Vecmane, Lauren Jones, Libby Derham, Lois Collins, Matthew Mohr, Michelle Pash, Nicholas Mauger, Odessa Mahony de-Vries, Prudence Swann, Sally Cuthbert, Sammy Ray Jones, Sarah Bartel, Sarah Sculley, Shae Gregg, Shelly Spence, Thomas Bridges, Tia Carrigan, Veronica Spittles Pettigrew, Victor Taylor, & Yellong Bulla.

Using Format