Tracey Moffatt, Spirit Landscapes @Tyler Rollins

JTF (just the facts): A total of 30 photographic works, variously framed and matted, and hung against white and grey walls in the main gallery space, a smaller darkened side room, and in the entry area. All of the works were made in 2013. (Installation shots below.)

The show includes work from six separate artistic projects. The supporting information for each project is below, including the number of works on view and their details:

  • As I Lay Back on My Ancestral Land: 5 digital prints, framed in white and unmatted, each sized 49×72, in editions of 8+2AP
  • Suburban Landscapes: 6 digital prints hand colored in water crayon, framed in white and unmatted, each sized 32×39, in editions of 8+2AP
  • Picturesque Cherbourg: 6 digital print collages on handmade paper, framed in white and matted, each sized 22×31, in editions of 8+2AP
  • Night Spirits: 8 photographic triptychs mounted behind acrylic, unframed, each sized 10×59 (in total), in editions of 8+2AP
  • Pioneer Dreaming: 4 digital print diptychs on handmade paper, framed in brown wood and unmatted, each sized 11×24, in editions of 8+2AP
  • In & Out: still images moving in digital photo frame, displayed at reception desk, sized 14×12, in an edition of 8+2AP

Comments/Context: Tracey Moffatt’s new works find her returning to her native Australia and probing the depths of her personal connections to the land. In a series of six separate projects, she reconnects to her past, exploring her Aboriginal roots and her own sense of history and memory through investigations of place. Seen together, the show feels like a kind of catharsis, where a swirling emotional mixture of affection and long buried injustice has finally come forth.

Spirit Landscapes is an apt title for this exhibit, as each series on view seems to infuse the land with a sense of hidden presence. Dark suburban landscapes in the silence of night are populated with ghostly clouds and mysterious blurred spots, like haunting remnants of unseen nocturnal apparitions, while tinted, candy colored views upward merge trees and clouds with elemental female forms, the land pulsing with force of life. The picture postcard perfection of bright gardens and picket fences is quietly shattered by ripped collage elements, a reminder of a town’s use as resettlement area for Aboriginal families, while mundane black and white suburban views of houses and streets are made personal with colorful overlaid stenciled texts that run the memory gamut from Tossed Flower Petals to Bullied Here. This undercurrent of restless unease continues in appropriated Western film stills of proud Hollywood stars gazing dreamily at the land (land which of course they had taken from the Native Americans), and ends with surveillance type imagery of surreptitious men sneaking in and out of mining town brothels, the mining boom imposing a new set of psychological traumas on the land.

Overall, I found the images from the Picturesque Cherbourg and Pioneer Dreaming series to be most successful in this show, as they push harder on the implausible juxtaposition of beauty and scarred history. While the mystery of time (past, present, and future) embedded in the land runs through all of these bodies of work, these two drive their point home with much more graceful force – gorgeous skies, pastel paint, and broad vistas can’t completely paper over the past. What works here is Moffatt’s genuine investment in these issues – she’s not standing at arms length making deadpan judgments, but is instead deeply and personally intertwined in this history, using her art as way of investigating its many facets and contradictions.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows, based on the project/series:

  • As I Lay Back on My Ancestral Land: $25000 each
  • Suburban Landscapes: $10000 each
  • Picturesque Cherbourg: $8000 each
  • Night Spirits: $10000 each (sets of 3)
  • Pioneer Dreaming: $10000 each (diptychs)
  • In & Out: $10000

Moffatt’s work has been intermittently available in the secondary markets in the past decade, with a handful of lots up for sale in any given year. Recent prices have ranged from $1000 to $51000, with prints from her Something More series at the top of that spread.

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