For Terran Muddle Aimee Gardyne presents a collection of soft drawings that respond to the coastal underwater environment surrounding the artist’s home along the eastern shoreline of Sydney. Suspended throughout the space, her drawings recall the ways in which the coastline and sea interact and overlap. In process and medium, Gardyne engages with the environment and through her work calls us to reflect upon our relationship with the natural world and observe the intelligence within it.
Snorkelling in Gordon’s Bay and Clovelly on a daily basis, Aimee Gardyne swims and observes the flow of the currents of the ocean. In her fieldwork she moves between observing starfish, cuttlefish, blue gropers and seaweed, to examining satellite images of the Sydney coastline where the sea intercepts the land. Gathering ideas and references, she then reimagines them in her work in material and concept.
The title of the exhibition alludes to the nebulous intersection of inhabitants and the Earth. As an adjective in science fiction, Terran draws from Latin terra “earth”. It is also used as a noun meaning “inhabitant of the Earth”. An earlier form, terrene was used in Middle English in sense of "belonging to this world, earthly, secular, temporal". Drawing from the idea of the entwined relationship between humans and the environment, Gardyne examines the geology, atmosphere and water currents of her local coastline, and reflects upon the presence and agency of other beings within this system.
With time spent in nature as her starting point for her ‘soft’ drawings, Gardyne takes photographs, creates studies, and reads as part of her process. The term ‘soft’ drawing refers to the drawn line, which softens as it is drawn upon the surface of the canvas. Using unprimed cotton canvas, the surface acts like a skin or a membrane as it interacts with acrylic paint. Hard lines soften and bleed across the material. For Gardyne, “drawing is categorised by an openness and it is process driven, the outcome is the practice”. With this focus on process, Gardyne experiments with drawing techniques to link material and concept. In the layering of paint and texture upon the canvas, building and taking away, the artmaking processes parallels the stratification, sedimentation and permeation of the coastline and sea.
Gardyne’s use of colours and patterns play with the tension of the real and imagined. In the abstracted forms the work feels like something that you might encounter in the ocean, yet retains a sense of otherness. In Polyp (2021) Gardyne uses handmade and acrylic paint to create swirling patterns that could loosely reference moving schools of fish. Soft violets, blues and ochres layer upon each other creating a work rich with colour and ephemerality. The process of painting; adding texture and then diluting forms builds depth, and leaves soft, amorphous patterns that veil any specificity. The abstraction evokes the transitory and ever-changing space of the ocean.
Suspended in the middle of the exhibition the canvases expand and push out into the space, becoming an immersive installation for us to encounter. The unstretched canvases are large in scale, hung from above the viewer. Shifting in colour and subject on either side of the canvas, Gardyne notes, “the variation in the works is what you find and encounter outside. By putting them into an installation it recalls those juxtapositions and plays into that.” Creating both harmony and contrast across the installation, she works on both sides of the canvas to evoke intense diversity and create unexpected pairings. “That is what landscapes do, the movement of the ocean informs the shape of the cliffs and vice versa.” In form, materiality and installation Terran Muddle recalls the rhythm of the tides as they consume the sand and the rock.
Gardyne is an avid reader of science fiction, including works by H.P. Lovecraft, Octavia E. Butler and Ursula Le Guin. This informs the ways in which she frames the environment within her own work. For example, Le Guin subverted the linear narrative of traditional science fiction that focussed upon the hero’s journey, challenging the conventions of epic fantasises and myths in her novels, particularly in her selection of unlikely protagonists and her avoidance of science fiction themes and categorisations. Like Le Guin, Gardyne’s approach to the landscape resists traditional perspectives, eschewing grand narratives around encounters with the epic Australian ‘landscape’. Rather Gardyne’s inquiry with the landscape is a softer, more abstracted examination that allows for a far less rigid or narrow field in which to portray the environment.
Gardyne’s practice pushes new boundaries in how the environment can be depicted. Expansive in her process, she enables unexpected outcomes that leave her work open to interpretation while inviting us to consider our entwined relationship with the environment and our hubris within it.
Curator, Orange Regional Gallery
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