AUSTRALIA Living Land expresses the temper of the Australian landscape. Three emerging Australian artists –  Zak Tilley, Harriet Goodall and Meg Walters explore Australia’s wrath and serenity, which, at this moment, seems raw and fragile yet holds a deep and resounding beauty. This poignant and timely exhibition launches in the aftermath of Australia’s devastating summer; its pertinence today impossible to have predicted when the theme was conceived eight months ago. Our intention was originally to celebrate Australia’s rich rural beauty through works by three artists living in small communities. With the noise around digitalisation, globalisation and our appetite for international travel, we felt that we may be losing sight of the natural beauty and simplicity of rural Australia.

However, a few months after consolidating our concept for the exhibition, Australia fell into a horrendous summer of extreme, debilitating weather. This heightened our connection to the fragility of the Australian landscape and its distinctive wildlife. Our thinking and emotional conversation around climate change grew more intense and it certainly seems fitting now, more than ever before, to express the character of the Australian landscape and celebrate its natural beauty. The exhibition has been co curated with Felicity Rulikowski whose understanding of the materiality of the works as well as the nature of their art practices has influenced the exhibition installation.

Zak Tilley is a Northern Territory based artist concerned with how one relates and identifies with the natural environment, in particular Australian native flora, fauna and landscapes. Growing up in Western Sydney and graduating from The College of Fine Arts, UNSW in 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Zak majored in Drawing and Painting but mostly produced mixed media paintings, dyed and embroidered textiles, sculptures and ceramics. With a background in education, and social services, Zak is currently completing his Master of Teaching (Secondary) whilst working in youth development and engagement in Alice Springs. Working in the Social and Community Services and facilitating creative workshops for youth and community development heavily influences Zak’s practice and creative philosophies.

“My work is a critical analysis and personal investigation of my relationship with the Australian landscape. Central Australia has made a huge philosophical impact on my practice. It has made me question my intent and sensitivity when painting. My works have become more critical of my relationship with the landscape, as a way to navigate the guilt of appreciation of a land – a land whose history of neglect, abuse and removal from its traditional owners and custodians, is intertwined with my settler heritage. The works I have painted for this exhibition depict my various encounters with the Australian landscape this summer, from thick smoke haze and pyro cumulonimbus storms on the South Coast, to dust storms and flooding of the rivers in Central Australia. My depiction of recent climate events is limited in my works due to sensitivity of communities, and my own processing.” – Zak Tilley.

After a creative childhood spent on a wheat farm in rural Australia, Harriet Goodall completed a Bachelor of Arts degree. She has since trained extensively in varied craft techniques – becoming known as an innovator in the makers movement. Harriet’s works exquisitely exploit the nature of the Australian landscape and its harsh and unpredictable character. Bringing life back to discarded items, Harriet searches for rich colour in abandoned or decayed places. She bends, twists and weaves her selected natural materials to produce organic, imperfect, robust yet seemingly fragile pieces. Recent works were created by merging hinge joint fence wire – reclaimed from a scorched fire ground near Harriet’s home while her husband protected their property and animals from the looming Morton fire on the NSW South Coast – with linen thread, seagrass and beeswax. This piece is like a tribal relic; a skeleton of something left behind in a post-disaster world. The subtle graduation of black-browns and lack of colour are apparent in many burnt landscapes; the welding lines a representation of topography.

“I think to really know life in the Australian bush you have to equally recognise its ever present death and decay. I just collect remnants and tenderly stitch them back to life with natural fibres, lines and colours that re-imagine nature’s own. I feel like my practice is an exploration of the dichotomy of belonging and displacement I feel in so many ways; a kick-back against our environmental recklessness and celebration of the radical beauty at our disposal. It’s a time of make or break!” – Harriet Goodall.

Originally hailing from the sub-tropical island of Bermuda, Meg Walters pursued a degree with Chelsea College of the Arts, London, before venturing to sunnier pastures. Her love of the ocean and the outdoors took her to Australia, where she ultimately left behind one of the worlds’ smallest islands in favour of its largest. It was at Newcastle University that she completed a Bachelor of Art and Design, specialising in Botanical Illustration. Meg is currently entering her third year of studies at Byron School of Art. There is languid movement in her world, a seamless flow in an unconstructed, almost spiritual landscape. A sense of nostalgia is evident in some of Meg’s work, possibly a yearning for a more dreamlike space. Her recent works offer a place of sanctuary, a respite after a gruelling Australian summer.

“My body of work for Australia Living Land is filled with a very real sense of urgency for me. The inspiration comes from spending six days in some of Australia’s most inaccessible, remote and inhospitable landscape. Hiking in Tasmania’s isolated South-West, I felt the impending influence of the inescapable elements. There was no reprieve from the natural forces which included blizzard, 120km winds, hail, sleet, torrential rain and scorching sun. The aliveness of this land captivated me; the original custodians’ resilience to live symbiotically with this such unforgiving conditions is astounding. The harshness of the land took me to new places mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s difficult to explain the isolation, the exposure and chaos of my time in Tasmania, but hopefully my paintings speak for me on this point.” – Meg Walters.

AUSTRALIA Living Land

567 – 569 Victoria Street, Abbotsford VIC 3067.

Opening Saturday 14th March (10 am – 3 pm) through to Thursday 16th April 2020.

Otomys Contemporary is open by appointment only.

Catalogue request / schedule an appointment via info@otomys.com.