Landscape + the Urban Environment

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2012, 12:00am


Landscape + the Urban Environment
Amelia Johnson Contemporary

The Western art world may have overlooked landscape painting for some time, thanks largely to its perceived association with romantic, pastoral ideals but this exhibition at Amelia Johnson Contemporary has put the genre back at the forefront, offering a critical view of landscape painting and the notion of landscape itself.

Five such artists are brought together at Amelia Johnson Contemporary in 'Landscape + the Urban Environment', curated by Hong Kong-based Australian Georgia Manifold.

The tone is set by five photographs by Australian artist Marian Drew which depict dead animals and still-life accoutrements set against dusky rivers and hills. The lighting, subject matter and ambience raise dark questions about our relationship to nature.

Another Australian, Chris Langlois, contributes four beautifully contemplative oil paintings of muted, wintry scenes in dull colours - a country road through the woods, waves crashing against a beach. The imagery is blurred, as if seen through a smudged car window, and the effect is to create a deliberate distance between viewer and landscapes. It evokes what the Portuguese call saudade - a nostalgic longing for something that no longer exists - and casts a critical eye over the sentimental ways in which urban societies relate to nature.

More oil paintings come courtesy of Irish-born, Hong Kong-based David Smith, whose 10 small works capture urban scenes: a hazy view of Tsim Sha Tsui from across the harbour, a double-decker bus trundling across Tsing Ma Bridge. The idea is to evoke a sense of impermanence and encapsulate the mental haze that often comes with the literal sort, but Smith's paintings feel lost amid the other artists' larger works.

Some of the most striking works come from South Korea's Ryu Ho-yeol, whose computer-generated images depart just enough from reality to make them otherworldly. Two of Ryu's works are large digital prints, one depicting a crush of automobiles in a synthetic city, like an architectural model gone wrong; another brings to mind a trash heap of computer parts and machinery.

A third piece is a wall-mounted installation, a video screen playing a three-minute loop of a digital tree blowing in the wind. The circuit boards running the screen, along with the connecting wires and speakers, are encased in plexiglass, exposing the landscape's artificiality.

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