ROSEMARY LAING /
Rosemary Laing leak
In a rough and hilly pastoral setting, a frame for a suburban dwelling has landed upside down upon the landscape, as if having plummeted from space. The mood is eerily tranquil, as if nothing else can happen. Now that the upside-down house is there, the empty visitation has come to rest on the hill as a pure and mysterious concept.
To take her large photographs on display, Rosemary Laing doesn’t use Photoshop. The upside-down house was constructed on the hill, and the artist had to organise a fair bit of carpentry, plus the co-operation of a farmer. It’s a photo monument. Behind this monumental prop lies the land itself, slightly rugged pastoral country in the Cooma-Monaro district of New South Wales that was once painted by the wonderful Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884-1961) but is now threatened by suburban development. Quite as anomalous as a house that lands upside down among trees, the land itself has been inverted, moving from a use that produced wool and oxygen to consuming resources at a furious rate and producing huge volumes of carbon dioxide.
As if underscoring the perversity of this development, the artist hangs some of her photographs upside down. It creates a strange conflict of perception, because either the house is upside down if the picture is the right way up or the picture is the wrong way around if the house is corrected.
Hanging images upside down is nothing new, but having a house inside them that is also on its head makes for a curious double negative. The project makes me think of the original stereotypes for the south as the antipodes.
Imagining the globe as an object that puts north at the top, Europeans could see the continent down under as somehow upside down. Language suggests that the Europeans imagined the antipodes as a place where people have the earth on their heads, almost bearing the globe like the mythical giant Atlas.
It’s a great irony that we Australians who apparently have the whole world above us cannot bear the thought of anyone living on top of us. To suburban Australians, it’s a most offensive suggestion if you propose that anyone else might live nearby, but especially above. Australians, they believe, are unique in the world, because they need empty land to the side, front and back; and the thought that someone else might live above or below inspires horror and anger throughout the most influential electorates.
When Laing transposes her house from Platonic outer space to sit in the countryside that is doomed to become suburban sprawl, she creates a powerful symbol of environmental abuse. Very soon, the house will be complete with all mod cons, including central heating and cooling, and a double garage from which cars will be making daily trips in scores of kilometres. The beautiful idea of the house amid bountiful space – which Laing celebrates with pictorial rhapsody – is an ecological nightmare. On top of the most inefficient footprint in the world, the archetype of the suburban house also entails social isolation and disempowerment for anyone who doesn’t drive a car. It’s the greatest disaster that ever fell upon our blessed continent, like a meteor from outer space. While the intelligentsia deplore the outer suburbs, they often actively contribute to something very similar, which Laing’s sharp image proposes even more directly. The steady pelting of the bungalows upon the countryside goes well beyond the city fringe and perforates the coast and hills in the form of holiday houses. It would be every architect’s dream to get a commission on the slope on which Laing erects her ghostly house-skeleton, overlooking a moody paddock with a few hardy old gums. The house would stand out as a photo opportunity, ready to be featured in a glossy architectural magazine.
Part of the prestige would be the fantasy that the house nestles in idyllic space, outside the economy of stress and petrol. A world upside down, indeed.
Robert Nelson 2011
Ulrike Hydenreich View
In Ulrike Heydenreich’s most recent drawings, the spatial effect of the smaller landscapes is heightened through the construction of architecturally precise perspective-boxes. It is also here that the drawing becomes an object in space, incorporating its own small, scenic stage, comparable to a stereoscopic image. The panoramic section of the drawing transforms into the window view, while the white spaces of the frame become the perspectively distorted interior. The landscape seems to perpetuate itself within the frame of the frame, a means of representation that has existed since the Baroque illusions of Andrea Pozzo. What remains is the illusion, which does not reveal itself until a second look. The constructed perspectives of the boxes appeal to the eyes of the viewer, whose changing vantage point offers continuous transformation, making a sequence of objects particularly fascinating.
The drawings always consist of mountain landscapes with snowfields. The images are drawn from vintage photo books that were printed during the period of the photogravure. Heydenreich combines selected views with imaginary landscapes. In a collaging process, individual scenes become combined as one image, so that at first glance a real landscape is suggested to the viewer. The horizontal progression of the mountain and landscape segments, however, is altered. This is found in the artificial shadows and the reappearance of single elements in different locations.
With her panorama rings, the artist constructs an infinite landscape. The wandering gaze of the viewer, looking for a familiar place or recognizable landscape information, finds no beginning or end. Ulrike Heydenreich seamlessly assembles these fictional panoramas in slanted circular wooden frames through which they gain an architectural and sculptural character. The round execution is reminiscent of landscape images from the Romantic Era. Caspar David Friedrich created similar landscapes, covering a 180° field of vision. Artists like Karl Friedrich Schinkel also experimented with the idea of the circular panorama. Art competed with reality; photorealistic landscape imagery adapted itself to the unending pictorial space of the radial human perspective.
Looking through Ulrike Heydenreich’s kaleidoscopic mirror objects, one is reminded of the opening scene of the 1871 novel “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There” by Lewis Carroll, in which Alice enters the supposed reflection of real space through a mirror. Only on second glance does an almost surreal alternate world reveal itself. The viewer of Heydenreich’s work also emerges through glass into a world between reality and illusion. The reflection leads to a fascinating, small universe made through reproduction and imagination. Ulrike Heydenreich’s recurrent theme is the landscape. In her drawings, prints and sculptural objects, she arranges interchangeable topographic and cartographic elements into new visual worlds. All works revolve around the construction of three-dimensionality; the new mirror-objects being the most immediate and the drawings the most subtle. In the seventeenth century and in the mirrored Baroque cabinets, the mirror was already considered a symbol of transience and a look behind reality. Heydenreich’s mirror sculptures are based on the idea of a kaleidoscope. One looks through a tube lined with mirrors, in which colorful shards of glass move freely, offering fantastic ornamental and floral images to the viewer. Heydenreich enhances this old invention with sculpture: the viewer looks through one of her upright kaleidoscopes as if into the depths of a well. One sees the geometric characters from the field of cartography, which transform themselves through multiple optical reflections to an imaginary world map or globe. Another sculpture incorporates the base, the ground of the actual exhibition space. The reflection is reminiscent of planets in another universe. The topographical map motif is also found in the artist’s screen-printed works. By kaleidoscopically repeating snippets of a map with the computer, the map is distorted into a new pictorial form. It is the symmetry, geometric symbols, and ornamental forms that constitute the character of the work. Initially two-dimensional images of the landscape, the maps are folded, thus jumping into three-dimensionality. The unfolding is extremely fragile, held in glass boxes. The works seem to have sprung from a cabinet of curiosities. Since the first cartographic drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, maps count – together with optical devices for topographical survey and nature observances – as an important category of Scientifica. Ulrike Heydenreich also builds object boxes for her pencil drawings, first in the round, about one meter in diameter, then also reduced to rectangular formats for smaller landscapes.
One would like to think that Ulrike Heydenreich views the world as if she were on a journey with Wilhelm von Humboldt, regarding the human view of reality as something to conserve in the glass cases of a natural history collection. The world seems new in the reflection of this artistic interpretation of sight.