Sunday, September 24, 2023


Suspended Landscape Oil on linen 67 x 61 cm 2023

In an age of persistent surveillance, heightened security needs, calls for civil and military preparedness for disaster and war [of various kinds], fears of fakery, and increasing numbers of displaced people, what does mapping of landscape and environment mean? Our world is not only traversed by human beings and animals; it is also scoped by arrays of land, sky, space and sub/marine based sensors. These sensors, attached to various devices and systems, register, detect and transmit data using electromagnetic frequencies. Movement of data, therefore, occurs in realms of space and time that are beyond human and animal experiential dimensions of mobility. 

Data is presented visually for human beings in graphics that overlay video or still images. Here, I am thinking about - for example - geolocating and terrain visualisation graphics, graphic recognition-squares that seemingly hover over the faces/heads of people, infrared markers monitoring human movement, guiding lines based on data transmitted from reversing cameras, on-board GPS screen-based directions, and crosshairs marking a remote operator's target.

Suspended Landscape plays with the appearance of computer-graphics. The continent of Australia is divided into squares, each one presumably containing information. If this painting was a screen, you could zoom in and out of each squared 'peep-hole'. Other dots and crosses mimic digital markers. Their purpose is ambiguous, maybe top secret? For me, I wanted to play with the idea of suspension - waiting, wondering, but also the idea that landscape is now suspended from 'hooks' of data. 

Each one of us, carrying a mobile phone, becomes one of these hooks. As we amble to work, play with our children in a park, fly in a plane, or speed off in a boat, our mobile devices can transmit and receive data, updates, and instructions at near light-speed. Unless signals are disrupted, or the power goes out and recharging your mobile phone is impossible, we are appendages or nodes in a ubiquitous data mapping system. 

While Suspended Landscape depicts the continent of Australia, the off-shore landscape is ambiguous. Maybe the splashes of red are close-up images of the Australian coastline. If so the digital system has dispersed the landscape across a screen. What for? Is it to closely analyse environmental impacts of climate change, or maybe it is a glimpse of a war gaming exercise. Maybe the dotted areas radiating outside Australia are pathways for future in-flow or out-flow exodus, maybe they are possible routes for incoming insurgents or combatants? 

Here, the idea of preparedness for future possibilities engenders suspense - as if dangling - waiting for something to happen. Yet, the painting also suggests a visual suspension of landscape, the continent laid out across a cosmic landscape. Perspective can shift from a possible aerial view to one where the viewer confronts the scene, like a spider web suspended across a gate-way. 

Shifting perspective - for me - is both literal and metaphoric. Please have fun imagining Suspended Landscape's many other possible interpretations!


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