By Claire Turner
What was it that Dickens once said? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” And so it goes!
Modern life and modern art, what a mouthful! Of course Dickens wasn’t talking about art practice per se, but about social inconsistency. Nonetheless, a Dickens quote is only adequate to begin a discussion of city life.
Recently I was contacted by artist Joe Alden Gibson, a Scotsman from Glasgow who has spent time in Bangkok and is currently living in Perth. Via email, Joe explains to me that the theme of architecture and plant life commonly reoccurs in his work. We have this in common!
The juxtaposition of dominating concrete structures and unsustainable fauna is everywhere, and we can’t work out how to feel about it. Do we love or loathe the industrial gaze of our big isolated city, or are we all environmentalists at heart who want to save the earth from industry and capitalism?
Unlike Joe, I have never travelled overseas before, so I’m inhibited in my collective experiences of both a tropical paradise and a bustling metropolis. However, I imagine that the ethical dilemma I’m facing is concurrent across the globe, but Australia is special.
The Australian landscape is full of contrasting contradictions; we are a nirvana of beaches, wildlife, and natural wonders, but we also house four of the top ten most liveable cities in the world (Melbourne has taken first place for the past three consecutive years as of 2013’s EIU’s Global Liveability Survey). In retrospect, I’m in a very deep love affair with Australia, despite all her inconsistencies. No, not despite, because of. There, I’ve solved it!
Let me describe the picture of what I’m seeing from my balcony in Como. To my left is the Kwinana freeway, so close I can read the number plates on the passing cars but at the same time I can also spot the sharks that apparently swim in the Swan River. Isn’t that a marvel?
In front of me is Comer Reserve where I catch foul cricket balls that get tossed up here on occasion. In the same line of view is the city skyline where towers are spliced against trees. Symbolism much? To the right, in the distance, are those infamous Perth hills. It is the best of times!
Ask anyone what they think of the cactus statue on Forrest Place and they’ll say without hesitation ‘it’s ugly and a major waste of the tax payers’ money, scough scough.’ Though that might be true, it nonetheless holds merit as an expression of Perth’s identity (…except why a cactus though?) Fact is, the city is a hybrid of architecture and plant life and the statue is there for good. See, art reflects modern life, didn’t you know that?
Joe Alden Gibson’s work explores the contrast between plant life and architecture inspired by visiting Bangkok. Check out some of his work below…