Art review: Fluid Cartographies takes an interest in people and maps | Canberra weather

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Nicci Haynes, Peter McLean and John Pratt: Fluid Mapping. Belconnen Arts Center, Pivot Gallery, 118 Emu Bank, Belconnen. Until May 9, 2021. The great 17th century poet John Donne, fearing his death was approaching, wrote one of his most famous works, Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness. In the second stanza, he describes his doctors as “cosmographers” and “I their map, who lie flat on this bed” on which they trace the course of his disease and assume because of its gravity that there is no will have no return trip. The interaction between people and maps is interesting and has traditionally been a much more personalized experience than just confronting a GPS where a mechanical voice guides you to your destination. Belco Arts’ new exhibition, Fluid Cartographies, explores how three Canberra-based artists – Nicci Haynes, Peter McLean and John Pratt – interact and find inspiration in cartographic imagery. Although all three artists are primarily printmakers, their attitudes towards maps differ considerably. Haynes has been involved in performance art for many years and in his two short exhibition videos, Force field and Points in space, explore the mapping of body movement in space in the form of a kinetic map. . Despite the interesting layout of the movement, I found the connection to the maps difficult to follow. McLean has taken on the challenge of working with maps and sees them to some extent as an intersection between the chartered fantasy world and the natural world itself. There is a great sense of energy, humor and physicality that permeates his 27 pieces at the exhibition as he maintains through his work that mapping is a layered experience with many levels of reality. Regarding his collage Seeking Country, he observes: “Much of my figurative work is about a feeling of seeking a deeper connection with the country, and a feeling of loss for the nature that has been so profoundly altered and the breaking of cultural ties to the land. which come from modern industrial culture. In McLean’s work, the maps name and claim the land of the new colonial and industrial powers and the role of the artist is to draw attention to this and reverse the process. The empty spaces on the maps mark the places where the artist’s imagination can step in and step in to reveal what has been hidden as in such wonderful pieces as Barren, Anticline and Still Standing, all made in 2021. Pratt was a key professor of printmaking in Canberra for many years and since he recently retired from his art there has been a sense of joy, energy and inventiveness. His little figures that run, tumble and fall from the Passage and Compass series of this exhibition form a playful relationship with the maps that surround them. Pratt observes of this series of works: “These collages are a playful exploration of cartographic aesthetics – its shapes, colors and texture and the different ways in which these elements can resonate with certain aspects of the experience. human. In this general play, Pratt’s runaway characters also seem to allude to unease with the prevailing state of the world and suggest that the “trust” proclaimed by a card – as if all was known, recorded and sorted – maybe just a veneer. under which reigns a world of chaos. Fluid Cartographies is a stimulating exhibition that challenges the sense of order and security we experience when looking at a map. Perhaps, as Donne suggested long ago, each of us is a card and all cards are ephemeral despite our best efforts to give them authority and permanence.

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