Excursions and Adventures
Friday 13th – the only date to open an exhibition of new Tasmanian Gothic paintings.
I'm pleased to say the evening went very well; lots of friendly people and some nice red dots.
Several people have asked for a transcript and the author has kindly sent me a copy. Here it is.
WHEN I THINK OF GOTHIC
When I think of Gothic, I think of those structures put up by late Middle Age builders - stone by stone. They enclosed a space yet to become sacred - reaching for a better Eternity. Here are dark and mysterious recesses. Here are Crypts. Here, the underworld of these spaces hold their own significance. These spaces are transformative - all sort of creatures live here.
When I think of Gothic, I think of Percy B. Shelly and his crowd, sitting around a fire telling horrifying tales of ‘different possibilities’ - of resurrections. Hearts beating in anticipation of the coming next word - how will it drop? Conjuring visions that could lift you or slam you down.
I think of Percy Shelley facing off with the gale force winds of Italian beaches….
“Oh, wild west wind,
thou breath of autumns’ being,
thou from whose unseen presence
the leaves, dead are driven,
like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing”
(Ode to the West Wind)
When I think of Gothic I think of Germany, of Caspar David Friedrich standing on that precipice, looking down into a sea of mist, fog and cloud - alone - high in the mountains - a solitary figure.
I think of early film noir - the silent film - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari where duality between the bright and dark sides of our nature is played. Where the sets and the lighting exaggerated the ‘chiaroscuro’ technique of the Mannerist period of art … adding ‘the unseen’ as an element.
I think of The Tale of Ruby Rose a film based on a Tasmanian story told by an old woman - Mrs. Miles of Mole Creek Valley. It is a tragic dark tale of a young woman living alone in a hut in the Highlands, waiting for her husband to come back - but he has died. She waited alone for four years. Four long years, alone, in this wilderness. The character Ruby, begins to create her own world, it comes out of her interaction with the landscape and its flora and fauna. She fears the night - ‘darkness is following me.’ She layers flour on her face to resist it.
All these artists, these builders, these film-makers, these writers create spaces for us to inhabit. Spaces where we find shelter from the mundanity of Consume - Work - Die.
When I think of Gothic, I think of musicians who take us there in an instant. The organist of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one Ash Wednesday evening - who played the dirgiest music that filled that great stone enclosure with swirling sound leaving me in anticipation as if on a ledge - a precipice.
I think of music of bands like ‘Dead can Dance’ - ‘SPK’ - ‘The Sisters of Mercy' . . .
Hey, now, hey now now now….sing this corrosion to me . . .
When I think of Gothic, I am slammed in the face with the spookiness that inhabits the Tasmanian Landscape. You may take a trip up Kunyani on a beautiful day, breathe in the cold sweet fresh air, stand there like Caspar David Friedrich - and take in the vista of human existence below. You may see Sisyphus coming up towards the summit, you may certainly feel that you have reached the realm of the Gods - but then, decide to go for a stroll from Thark Ridge to Devils Throne and never be seen again!
That dark blue of spaces, that jagged rock landscape, the hostility of a burnt out pine forest, where nothing grows there again naturally.
The isolation of the lonely places that shaped peoples' lives in the past and still continues to shape ours. Here, ironically, on this heart shaped Island a dark, eerie, cold and bracing history, climate and landscape, has infused our imaginations - and we do embrace that darkness, we know the clouds, the mists that hang heavy in the valleys, we know the colours of winter that pervade the recesses of the voids as we drive past them - we know spooky.
Elizabeth Barsham comes from this place,
Observing the details of this inheritance, Elizabeth creates unique works that interrogate the haunting and unusual aspects of this Landscape on this Island.
When I look at Elizabeth’s paintings, I feel like I have just woken up in a beautifully strange and a totally new world, where every detail, every object - needs to be investigated and rediscovered and where surprises flourish in abundance. Welcome to Tasmanian Gothic.
Written and delivered by Comrad Xero at the opening of
Excursions and Adventures”
an exhibition of paintings
by Elizabeth Barsham
Friday 13 January , 2017.
(World Goth Day) Exhibition ends 22 Jan.