Above the canopy | Sunday Arts Magazine
City Hall Gallery presents the new exhibition Above the canopycelebrating the rich and diverse beauty of Australia’s natural environment of July 9 to September 24. This exhibit conveys the unimaginable grandeur of nature while exploring concerns for climate action and the need to protect the planet for future generations.
Featuring artists working with installation, photography, painting, animation and textiles, the exhibition creates a theatrical, immersive and regenerative experience that acknowledges the importance of the country and our need to care for it. Artists include Sarah Hendy, Janet Laurence, Michael McHugh, Rebecca Mayo, Catherine Nelson, Grant Stevens and Judy Watson.
Nature has provided an endless source of inspiration for visual artists throughout the millennia; they have captured its beauty, documented the impacts of climate change and commented on unsustainable human practices. Through hyperrealistic images of lush, verdant forests, as well as detailed studies of insects, botany, birds, and geology, Above the canopy shows a deep appreciation for our majestic and awe-inspiring world.
Sarah Hendi is a multidisciplinary artist based in Victoria. His featured work, “Waiting for Dawn” (2018) (pictured left), questions a near-death experience she had in one of Australia’s most beautiful parts after nearly drowning in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales following former tropical cyclone Debbie. It is characterized by lush, lush plant growth, with delicate ferns growing in a crowded landscape of giant trees, fig trees, booyongs and flamboyants.
by Janet Laurence practice examines our physical, cultural and conflictual relationship with the natural world through site-specific gallery and museum works. Laurence creates immersive environments that navigate the interconnections between life and the world. Its installation “Breath of the Forest” (2020) features eleven suspended silk veils covered with images of animals and trees, including Tasmanian ancient forests. This work embodies the transience and fragility of natural habitats.
Michael McHugh collects a wide range of photographs and drawings on research trips to museums, libraries and gardens around the world. In his studio, he draws and creates a series of collages that result in large format paintings. For above the canopy, he created a large scale painting Swimming in the Clouds (2022) who asks what new hybrid organic forms will evolve from climate change, when plant forms are washed away and the land is swallowed up by saltwater intrusion that includes complex microcosms of marine life.
Michael McHugh says: “My work imagines a world of natural forms of land and sea, completely with new DNA, creating a rare evolution of species that started organically from the beauty of Australia’s natural environment. This work, swim in the clouds (Acrylic on canvas) is the largest painting I have done to date, spanning six meters in length, and celebrates color and nature with lush paintwork and obsessive marking. In my world, I want to bring joy to the viewer and forget for a moment everything that is happening in his life.
Rebecca Mayo is a lecturer in the School of Art & Design at the Australian National University and primarily examines the relationships and interactions between ecologically significant urban sites and people. Reference to Charles Darwin’s 1881 book The formation of plant molds by the action of worms and contemplating the agency of non-human life, Mayo’s featured work At work with the worms (2020) is a compost/composite of Darwin’s laser-engraved text, humane care, and worm-eating activity. Mayo explains, “Working with the thousands of worms in the farm, my making slowed down to their pace. Engraved in Canberra and left for a week with the verses, the pages of the book took on the appetite of the verses which in turn rhythmed with the climate inside their home.
Katherine Nelson uses digital technology as a paintbrush to create lush, hyper-realistic landscape “paintings” and animations. After completing her artistic training in painting at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney, Catherine created visual effects for films such as Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter, 300 and Australia. Nature is the main source of inspiration for his art; she uses computer collage techniques to move photos from “reality” to imaginary worlds of her own design.
Grant Stevens’ explores the different ways in which digital technologies and conventions of representation mediate our inner worlds and social realities. Drawing inspiration from the visual languages of video games and the wellness industry, his featured work, The Forest (2020) is an endless panoramic experience of an immersive and idealized computer-generated sound forest. Created with procedurally generated and algorithmically homogenized infographics, it is both a tribute to the natural environment and a satire of wellness initiatives and their claims to rejuvenation.
by Judy Watson The Aboriginal matrilineal family originated in Waanyi country in North West Queensland. Spanning painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture and video, her practice often draws on archival documents and materials, such as maps, letters and police reports, to uncover institutionalized discrimination. against the natives. The two Watson paintings on display incorporate systems for measuring Australia’s median temperature and fire danger, the latter a familiar sight on regional road networks. It contrasts an ember red-orange artwork with the austere silhouette of a bare tree depicted at its center with a more hopeful and vibrant green artwork referencing the regrowth on K’gari (Fraser Island) after the fires. devastating bush of 2020.
Above the canopy brings together artists from diverse backgrounds, whose works highlight the grandeur of nature while raising concerns for climate action and the need to preserve it for future generations.