El Dorado

My next solo show, El Dorado, will be at Gaffa – 281 Clarence St Sydney. Opening night is Thursday April 13, 6-8pm. Come and enjoy a pre-long weekend drink!

Shangri-La, 2016. Oil, acrylic and graphite on board, 76 x 112cm.

The history of European settlement in Australia is littered with tales of exploration. This narrative of heroic endeavour didn’t die out with the advent of the modern era, but rather was scaled down and bled into the way Australia was marketed to tourists.

As tourism increased in the postwar period through to the sixties and seventies, souvenir media such as postcards and brochures contained tales of great feats of entrepreneurship by the men who built tourist attractions. For example Vince Vlassof and Lloyd Grigg, brought together by their mutual love of shooting local wildlife (in both the photographic and ballistic sense), designed and built an underwater observatory on Green Island, Queensland. In promoting their attraction-building prowess, these men overwrote existing landscapes and traditions with their own stories.

And then there are the Big Things that dot the roadside landscape, like the Big Pineapple near Nambour.

While I was doing some background reading on pineapples in art and architecture I discovered that pineapples have long been used as symbols of abundance, wealth and hospitality. Hospitality! Sure, pineapples are sweet and juicy, but you really have to hack through a lot of thick spiky skin before reaching the sweet flesh. It got me idly speculating about what sort of society would equate pineapples with hospitality and welcoming strangers. Perhaps one populated almost solely by gatekeepers.

So I’ve been pondering the way that tourist attractions colonise the landscape. Motels, Big Things and other attractions conceal the previous history of a place, often transplanting a cartoonish exoticism from other colonised parts of the world.