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Painting: Enamel, Oil, Acrylic on Canvas.
“Return to Cookie Mountain” takes its title from American alt-rock group TV on the Radio’s 2006 breakout album of the same name. A favourite on my studio play list, dense kaleidoscopic noise evokes a Symphony or an avalanche. Abstract and electronic textures roll across acoustic soundscapes, white noise swells engulfing all.
“Return to Cookie Mountain” is a landscape painting. Landscape theory is full of unresolved ideas about the representation of landscape. Critical impasses, ranging from landscape and ideology to the sublime, from the survival of romanticism to the relation between landscape and subjectivity, remain unresolved. I am investigating the material and conceptual boundaries of the medium as revealed in this work.
The conceptual construction behind this work is based on my vision of chthonic forces and melting glaciers. The materiality of the paint simulates melt and flow. The surface of this painting is the result of the accidental integrated and co-opted into coherence.
Multiple layers of slick chewy opaque acrylic paint poured over translucent washes of water colour and gouache. Interacting processes contribute to a dynamic equilibrium. By definition, a glacier must be massive enough to move – I have sought to capture a sense of motion, a serpentine mass of relentless crushing power, a mountain on the move.
I am thinking about the phenomenology of landscape and meditating on those visceral experiences of natural forms: contours reference the undulating waves of a seismograph that registers the vibrations of the ground; the scratching of a polygraph as it measures and records involuntary responses; lines on a climatology graph charting thaw and ice growth.
A study published in February this year, funded by a core National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) project, ‘Climate Present and Past’, used computer modelling to understand the drivers of glaciers. The model was tested using more than a decade of field observations of glaciers in the Southern Alps, and a 30-year record of glacier photographs from the NIWA ‘End of Summer Snowline’ programme. The study concluded that although glaciers advancing sounds promising, the future “doesn’t look good” for New Zealand’s glaciers.
“Franz Josef Glacier has already retreated more than 1.5 kilometres since the end of the advance in 2008.” – Associate Professor Andrew Mackintosh from Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre.
I draw on landscape familiar to me through postcards and photo albums, colonial glacier paintings, and topographical surveys – dreamworks of imperialism. I am moved by the Māori formation myth surrounding Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere (The Tears of Hine Hukatere) / Franz Josef Glacier.
At the time of writing, scientists investigating the fault beneath the Southern Alps have discovered extreme temperatures similar to that of an active volcanic zone, yet there are
no volcanoes in Westland. It is unlike any known active fault in the world. Geothermal findings could give clues about the conditions of a major fault prior to a significant rupture.
This geothermal energy may be very commercially-significant for New Zealand with wide-ranging economic implications for the region. Here modern technology might begin an explicit dialogue with the picturesque tradition inherited from eighteenth-century theory and practice, an inscription of technological reason over subordinated nature. This iconic region of snowy mountains and romantic mist might be set to become a far more complex, contested and symbolic landscape.
Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection