Lindsay Harris: Ngaaditj Boodja (Salt Country)
Emerge Art Space
REVIEW LAETITIA WILSON
Ngaaditj Boodja runs at Emerge, 827 Beaufort Street, Inglewood, until Saturday.
Emerge Art Space has moved north along Beaufort Street to Inglewood and reopened with the ninth solo exhibition by Lindsay Harris. Large, earth-toned paintings line the walls representing a country in a state of ageing and accelerated decomposition wrought by the encroaching tide of salinity.
Harris' former home is the central Wheatbelt town of Kwolyin and its surrounds. The Wheatbelt is familiar to most through cliches of harsh, dry, sparse, open terrain, where the baked landscape opens up to a wide, open, blue sky.
From a comfortable distance it is easy to romanticise such country but when passing through, it often feels like an endless, monotonous stretch, the same scene playing over and over like being caught in a time loop.
Against this, the lived reality of the 150,000sqkm that make up the Wheatbelt is of a country bristling with biological diversity that has long suffered the impact of settlement, decades of farming, clearing of land, bouts of drought and the debilitating spread of salinity.
Harris communicates this reality using resin, ochre and pigment on hemp and the considered placement of dot and line to make up form and pattern. From abstraction to reality, this directly symbolises a land sliced up by station fences, acts of everyday life such as the conservation of water, wide salt lakes, proud granite rocks, tree roots cracked in the sun and the blood of the ancestors poignantly and simply signified by a single red dot.
Other scenes play out on a more personal level, including a representation of the struggle for Noongar people and a killing ritual of Noongar men out on the hunt for revenge. Harris seeks to express the connections between the personal and the wider context and specifically how each converges at the point of the fate of the Wheatbelt country.
The paintings are composed to a high aesthetic standard and display both a poised stillness and underlying tension. One's eyes easily track along the lines of dots, circle the haunting pools of salty white and rest on the earthly red and orange expanses.Generous spaces open upon the surface and allow the mind and the imagination to delve into the suggested narratives and consider the sombre themes contained within. Harris is certainly a talent not to be missed and well worth keeping an eye on.
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