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Distance and Displacement

DISTANCE + DISPLACEMENT began in the summer of 2018 in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. The series continued in the forests of Western Australia in 2020 Feb-July and Dec. 2022 – January 2023 as artist in residence at the Fremantle Arts Centre, and August 2022 at the Sointula Art Shed on Malcolm Island, Canada.

Gallery 25, ECU/Fringe World Perth Feb. 1 – March 2, 2023

Fringe World Award Winner 2023 – Visual Arts and Film 

Download Catalogue (pdf)

Download Floorsheet (pdf)

Exhibition Opening Introduction

by Dr Nicola Kaye, ECU Galleries Deputy Director
Associate Professor Lyndall Adams, ECU Galleries Director

Dawn’s evocative work plays with perspective as she “documents” the forests she inhabits, in which each image reveals a different view, slipping from the macro to the micro, from the real to the constructed and the direct interventions and placement of paintings within the diverse landscapes she inhabits. The anonymous figure, (is it the artist, or is it you?), embedded in the work sometimes visible and at other times quite hidden, hauntingly and at times confrontingly, look out at the viewer from the different forest locations—questioning ideas of belonging, and ultimately how we navigate the Anthropocene.

The forest locations are clearly labelled, and it is most important to the artist that this is the case, so as to acknowledge the sites, and the flora and fauna that inhabit them. This also presents a platform in which the imaginings evoked by the paintings, photographs, digital projection and foraged plants, bark and nuts can emerge. From Dawn’s home country, and the forests in Canada that she knows intimately, frequenting them since a child, with all of the experiences and memories this brings, to her soon move to Vancouver Island and future immersions in the remote forests near there. Interestingly Dawn has placed these forests next to each other, metaphorically spanning the artist’s lifeworld. Then moving to the local, the suburban Perth sites surrounding Bibra Lake, peppered with paperbarks, revegetated, to the Boranup Forest in the South-West, in which most of us will know a fire destroyed up to 8000 hectares of the well-known Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park and the Boranup Forest after it burnt out of control for four days in December 2021. Having been lucky enough to have visited this region only just over a week ago, it is very heartening to see the area recovering, albeit there is still a long way to go.

Further questions arise from the work, regarding the real and the virtual worlds we inhabit, and how they increasingly blur, and particularly our reliance on screens. The projected work “Opposing Narcissus” completely embeds us within the screen, however our peripheral vision affords us a view of the physical works also—this interplay is most provocative.

It is with great pleasure that we open this quiet, exhibition. Its reflexively here and now, full of current concerns and the natural world that reflects on our digital footprint. There is a playfulness here also, that makes us want to be complicit within the narrative. A space to imagine.

Photos: D. Dudek / P. Amorim
``As we spend more of our time staring into the frames of movies, television, computers, hand-held displays . . . how the world is framed may be as important as what is contained within that frame.`` Anne Friedberg Virtual Window
Distance: how much ground is covered by an object, regardless of its starting or ending position.
Displacement: an object’s change in position considering its starting position and final position.

This project is about boundaries, about striking out of the screened environment into an unknown (yet familiar) wilderness. There is a sense of return, of going back to something that was lost. The paintings seem to be about displacement, a figure holding a mirror, her eyes looking into the distance, and in others the physical removal of a piece of the painting directs our eyes beyond the frame. This aversion speaks to the relationship with our natural surroundings, ignoring issues that are critical yet so often ignored, instead focusing on the image of the self and the screen. Moving away from the reflection of Narcissus to reflection through retrospection. The loss of one’s self parallels one’s disassociation from nature.

The paintings become “windows onto themes of presence and absence, matter and void,” to borrow a summary phrase from Julian Bell’s Mirror of the World. The mirror both sees and reflects, as eye and camera lens, allusion and illusion. The cut out paintings with their sculptural, dimensional quality and missing circle have a direct correlation with their environment. Enhanced and embraced by a natural setting or injured by the loss of it, these absences create negative space, as with a black mirror or a dark screen. The missing pieces of this project are the removed physical circles absent from the cut out paintings, their significance yet to be exposed as artifacts or found objects.

The photographs document something more than just the subject of paintings casually dropped on the forest floor. They raise questions about originality and ways of seeing, relevant in the age of Photoshop and digitally altered images. Where two almost identical paintings of the same scene are shown, they create a relevant language as we stare into multiple windows containing manipulated versions of images nestled into our various screens. 

All images from this series are printed full frame and are shown as photographed.

by Dawn Dudek and Nico Kos Earle