'As I write from a small apartment, my bedroom window shields me from the elements but lets me glimpse a shadow play of trees and passing birds. Here inside, a miniature palm reflects in my computer screen. There are images of ivy, snakes and waterfalls on my windowsill.
We are constantly - often unconsciously - negotiating with nature. Pulling it in and warding it off. A house is where the flora and fauna isn’t, but relentlessly we draw from these categories to adorn our clothes, bed-sheets, walls. We move plants from their happy ecosystems and confine them to pots and vases. We adopt pets and chase out insects. Without demanding conclusive answers, Rebecca Orchard’s practice interrogates these relationships: between wild and domestic spaces, between the organic and the manufactured, the referent and the reference. The resulting work is neither derisory nor a celebration - instead, it constitutes an extended exploration of a curious and persistent dynamic.
Nature’s own tendency towards reproduction and self-similarity emerges in the artist’s impulse to re-create what is seen, found and felt. As with all art there is a sense in which Orchard asserts human agency over natural matter: materials are disconnected from their organic networks, and repurposed towards a creative agenda. But in Rose Vision these materials seem to maintain their innate generative force, giving rise to new aleatoric forms untrammelled by ideology or intent.
In From the Edges of a Stone, rocks from a stranger’s verge become totems of creative potential. Their contours form the foundations for an array of drawings evoking imaginary topographies from which the stone might have been quarried. In previous works these same rocks were replicated in modelling clay refined from the raw and rocky earth. There is a sense of tectonic patience in a process like this, which works to reproduce and reimagine details from tiny fragments of nature, time and again, through different aesthetic strategies. It evokes the interminability of the artistic process at the same time as it alludes to the inexhaustibility of nature.
Other moments of productivity spring from natural objects encountered only in a state of reproduction. Six mixed-media works collectively titled Passing Connection take published black-and-white photographs of plants as their departure point, fixating on organic forms that have regenerated themselves through print media rather than seed and soil. The photographed foliage takes on an uncanny theatrical quality. Meanwhile, Orchard’s painterly, improvised compositions grow forth from the photographs’ edges, reviving a sense of animism and wilderness.
Linen is spun from fibres of the flax plant. In a moment of synchronicity, Orchard’s unstretched linen proves to be the exact size of her lounge-room window, becoming a makeshift curtain just as the window becomes a makeshift easel. This is the departure point for Outside Observations I & II, where Orchard reimagines elements of her front garden silhouetted through the fabric. Yet she renders her pared-back forms in house paints, a palette of muted tones alluding to domestic uniformity. Somewhere in between canvas, sculpture and screen, the Outside Observations hang at the threshold of interior and exterior, tracing the archetypal “line” which Heidegger locates as the essence of “house.” They are simultaneously surfaces on which to translate the surrounding environments and parts of these environments themselves.
This process underscores the way in which Rose Vision sees Orchard extending her focus, both outward and inward. New projects involve expeditions to distinctly Western Australian wilderness sites that become unbounded satellites to the art studio. A trip to Lesmurdie Falls produces a range of photo and video documentation. The stills provide impetus for semi-abstracted works on wood, evincing an alternative approach to landscape painting which emphasises materiality over mimesis. Orchard’s field footage, meanwhile, is projected into her home fireplace. The ensuing scene is filmed once again to produce the recursive Inner Falls. Here, the bush in its natural form arrives in the would-be destination of chopped, functional firewood. This is a speculative site, a new and less destructive means for nature to provide comfort in the home. But just as nature gives rise to continual generation, so too is degeneration implicit in Orchard’s work. She mentions here the degradation of sound and video quality, as the fireplace-cinema is recaptured for presentation in the gallery. If Orchard shows us alternative modes of engaging with nature, they are not offered as utopias or solutions.
The fallacy of utopia in either nature, culture, or the meeting of the two seems embedded in the exhibition’s title - “rose-coloured spectacles,” after all, is shorthand for naive, pollyannaish idealism. By casting doubt on the idyllic presumptions surrounding nature and domestication, Orchard reveals a poignant and uncanny current that permeates our visual landscape. Her work crystallises a quality that characterises the home, the wild, the liminal, and the imagined; the enigmatic spaces in which our lives are forged.'
Catalogue text by Lyndon Blue, 2015
All images by Duncan Wright