Sometimes, It’s Second Nature

'Our houses are built to protect us from nature. In urban Western societies we are no longer familiar with the rhythms of weather, animal migration, plant cycles; the wilderness is unknown and threatening. Instead, swathes of bushland are carved up in order to make suburbs. In Perth – an ever-growing, ever-sprawling city – this is recent history. And while maintaining greenery in urban environments has become common practice, it is necessarily ordered. Nature must be held close, not allowed to stray. Any signs of reverting to wildness must be nipped, as it were, in the bud.

We may not want to live actually in nature – insects! Sunburn! No wifi! – but we are frequently compelled to bring it into our homes. Decorative patterns on cloth, embroidery motifs, and romantic depictions of the landscape have long been woven into the fabric of our lives. Of course, nature is much more orderly when turned into a repeating pattern and placed on a curtain or cushion cover. It’s contained; it is there for our comfort. We look at it, sit on it, feel at peace. We are able to experience all the enjoyment of being surrounded by plants without the inconvenience of weeding, digging and spreading manure. This way, we don’t have to get our hands dirty.

Rebecca Orchard’s work exists at the intersections of indoor/outdoor, nature/domestic, wild/artificial. Her installations use furnishings, natural materials and art materials to reimagine the domestic environment. The objects chosen from nature are often things not normally used as decoration, such as the three-dimensional carpet composed of rocks sprayed salmon-pink; or the sticks gently painted in watercolours and placed alongside thin clay counterparts. A wall-hanging is comprised of layered bedsheets with the floral patterns roughly snipped out. These arrangements are filled with quiet space, reflective and considered.

Orchard’s works on paper continue this sensibility, spanning still-life drawings, images from gardening texts, and National Geographic magazines. This exhibition also sees her explore painting on linen. She has selected house paints that bear the names of plants: ‘Shrub Leaf’, ‘Pine Forest’, ‘Kangaroo Paw’. Paint names possess a particular kind of poetic magic, those referencing nature doubly so; they conjure an imagined place in which flat walls are actually trees and shrubs, a shady forest, a burst of flowers. This liminal space is the site for this exhibition: not the wilderness, not the home, but somewhere else entirely.'

Catalogue text by Anna Dunnill, 2014





All images by Duncan Wright