Inland Sea VII
The image Inland Sea VII (Tidal Stain) forms part of the body of work concerned with the treatment of our natural and cultural environment and the history of how this all took place. The construction of this image involves an overlay of the old Colonial Times newspaper from 1829 this was one of, if not the first newspapers in Tasmania. The reasons for its use are based around my concerns about the treatment of aboriginal people, especially at this time when there was great tension mounting between coloniser and colonised. My birthplace is Tasmania and this place has always fed my work in terms of culture and landscape.
Exhibition - Inland Sea
The Albedo Effect – Exhibition Statement
Nigel Hewitt’s latest exhibition The Albedo Effect tells three types of narratives: the layering and creating of each individual image; the marked transition of a whole body of work; as well as an interrogation of the broad narrative of culture and history in the works’ subject matter.
Two images in the exhibition come from the end of ‘The Shadower’ series. The Shadower VI and VII are transitional images; for in them there is a movement towards a misty and abstract depth. It is these two images and their pursuit of ambiguous light and space that inevitably led to the adoption of this latest, encaustic, wax medium. A change in subject matter necessitated the move into a new medium. In the use of wax and oils the creation of an image has become more responsive and intuitive and the process of creating works is now governed by the use of layers. The varying opacity and transparency of the wax allows for the image’s full history to be recorded: every layer and every moment of development of each image is visible through the final surface.
Underneath the aesthetic surface of Hewitt’s new wax works lies a history and record of all that has passed before. Much like the literal palimpsest that is at the base of ‘The Cartographer’ the wax works themselves are a layered history which record and question the mechanisms of power; those of mapping, language, navigation and economy. This power, as it has been manifested throughout history as well as how it continues to function today, is brought to our attention through symbolic objects that contrast and compliment one another. The work recognises that the way we live is determined by the past, whether visible or invisible. It is in this recognition of the importance of history that we can acknowledge the present as a formation of tomorrow’s history.
The work in The Albedo Effect exhibition contemplates human, environmental and cultural development. It considers the imposition and power of language as it has delineated and implicated maps, land and oceans which have been inscribed by, that which appears at times to be, arbitrary and irrelevant. A language of fear covers the land and ocean in Hewitt’s images, as the world is being re-colonised and reinscribed by a foreign ideology. The ship, which transcends time and history, scatters language and values through the contemporary world. It is in these images that we are metaphorically witnessing the formation of history, as it is happening now.
In ‘The Cartographer II’ the initial palimpsest has moved out of the abstracted lower realm to cover the land, ocean and mapping of our world. In this image the only language is English; the letters and influence that is being washed up onto the shores from the wake of the ship is literally determining our reading of the land. Certainly this ship is not sailing uncharted waters, or discovering new territory. But, rather, revisiting and reinscribing history with contemporary words and ideologies.
The language that has been impressed upon the land is a language of contemporary fear and anger: it is the language of power that has no limits. Perhaps the ship (the Endeavour or a replica) is suggesting that despite our new and globalised world; despite our consciousness of difference and supposed respect for the world's multitude of cultures, there is still the possibility that one culture, one language and one set of determining fears can influence the world over. In the fog, appearing (or striving not to disappear), we can make out a figure. The human element. It is in the presence (and potential disappearance) of this figure that this concept of mapping and language and contemporary fear moves out of the abstract and into the personal. What devastation has and will be caused by the unmonitored powers that be?
The use of wax in the new medium is essential to the interpretation and contemplation of these images. For it is in the ambiguity and indeterminacy of the space created by the aesthetics of a wax surface that we have chance to consider the implication of the work’s subject matter. It is in the depth of the images that we are able to leave behind our everyday world (which is all too often busy with technology, communication and progress) and consider the long-term implications of now.