AUGUST – DECEMBER 2022
This series follows on from the suburban landscapes of GARDEN PATH, to a lesser extent PLACE HOLDERS. This time the focus is on the peculiar pruning of trees in the street to accommodate power cables. I do not know if this is done elsewhere but it is common throughout the Melbourne metropolitan area. It may be just a local measure, a compromise between additional cable loading on overhead lines (particularly for pay-TV) and commitments to green spaces and public safety. A more effective and expensive option would have been to put all cables underground, but clearly the funds were not there for local government and big business partners. So what we have is a distinctive cultivation or gardening for local suburbia, one that alludes to overriding commercial priorities, perhaps overheads in general.
The aim was firstly to demonstrate that such trees were not eccentric or exceptional to their situation but consistent with a civic practice. Many instances would obviously support this, but it also raises the issue of how they are to be documented or pictured and with that, issues of framing and perspective, time of day or season and other circumstances. Then there are distinctly photographic issues of depth-of-field, exposure, motion and record platform (digital or analogue). All become factors. In short they introduce a class or sort of picture. The same tree may appear quite normal or natural from other angles, in other circumstances. In order to highlight salient features one must construct or convert a sort of picture. Just as many specimens confirm a general practice, so too, many versions of a suitable picture help to define a consistent pictorial subject.
Echoing prior work then, we have the tree that confirms a picture and the picture that confirms a tree. The series may be modest in scope but reminds us of nature’s ongoing construction.
More notes bottom of the page
More notes bottom of the page
Some may find the theme too narrow and the numbers tedious. Some may find the treatment and theme too banal or trivial and unfortunately digital works still meet with a certain resistance, with the possible exception of Thomas Ruff. In defence, I am not aware of the theme presented elsewhere, nor of others that share my irrealist approach, and the numbers are around average for a series. If the work often sails too closely to standard postcard presentation, this is only to contrast with crude local pruning practices, surely the antithesis of glamorous souvenirs. The interface between photography and graphics, practice and revision, has never been more acute. Some version of realism still vaguely obtains, but the point is really how and when we strike a balance between object and picture, truth and beauty.
As with other series that have little or no prospect of being extended into paintings, I find they work best as ensembles or collections, would possibly fair better as a small book.
Finally, I am aware of the precedent in my 1976 film STRAIGHT TREES, where horticultural programmes around London inspire various comic metaphors. The current series might have been titled BENT TREES as a nod to youthful frivolity, but I did not feel the need to tether the work to distant origins. I prefer to look forward and turn over a new leaf.