Rust and Shadows - landscape wonders of the Asia Pacific Triennial

A whole exhibition dedicated to the way artists from different cultures and places see their landscape – few things could be more enticing for your Landscapologist. So it is with great excitement I bring you my completely biased personal faves from APT7.

APT is officially The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, and it’s on until April 14 at the Queensland Art Gallery.  Sure, sure, it’s not described in any catalogue as a ‘landscape’ exhibition. But that doesn’t change the fact that nearly every single one of the pieces on show in this epic cultural event represents a deeply physical, emotional and sensory connection to place and landscape.

Let’s start with Shirley Macnamara’s gorgeous Wingreeguu 2012. At first glance it looks like a chance breeze has blown it, ready formed, into place in the gallery, and yet it tells so wonderfully of a very particular place - spinifex land of far western Queensland - and its role in the lives of both Shirley’s traditional people and the later grazing community. It’s as if the artist has reached back through time and plucked out the heartstrings of a thousand generations, and then woven in the tough grass to encircle the work.

You can see the same re-imagining in Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s stunning pieces.  Crafted from salvaged farm and building materials, they reinterpret the traditional fibre practices of her mother’s Waradgerie people. Couldn’t you look at the patina of rust for hours? No matter what distance you’re at the surface resembles it’s own richly detailed landscape of tiny textures and colours.


I’m not sure if it was the way they were hung, or the overcast sky when I visited, but these works would have been doubly delicious for me had they been lit to throw shadows.  As a long-time shadowphile I was heartened to discover that several other APT offerings definitely gave good shadow.

These elegant beauties were cast by Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi’s Kulasi; crisp geometries and such rich, strong colours humming as the taut cylinders floated against a dark background.

Richard Maloy’s Yellow or Blue?  both consumes space and creates it anew. The enormous cardboard installation suggests a landscape of rugged, impermeable terrain that all the same could collapse at any moment. Is it perhaps reminding us of the dangers of hubris? That humanity’s great edifices remain standing by chance rather than design? And what's with the yellow? Is Mr Maloy tipping his hat to The Vault, Melbourne's much maligned 'Yellow Peril', or am I reading too much into things?

Around the corner, Parastou Forouhar’s Written room uses clouds and dust storms of Arabic script to create a swirling, pulsating landscape that writhes off the walls to embrace the viewer.

The urban landscape is not forgotten either.

Both Nguyen Manh Hung’s Living together in paradise and Paramodel’s How to make a paramodel use accessible, almost whimsical techniques to comment on today’s cities and pose questions about the future of the metropolis in Asia Pacific countries.

Phuan Thai Meng’s jaw-dropping realistic painting in The Luring of [ ] draws us into the in-between spaces of the urban landscape.

Finally, Yuan Goang-Ming’s Disappearing Landscape – Passing II  is a wondrous video installation across three screens that evokes the urban landscape of Taiwan with great delicacy, compassion and genuine curiosity. I loved it.

If this was all the APT7 had to offer it would have been enough. Luckily for us, there’s way more on offer. If you’ve been along, tell me which artist most moved you, or most clearly evoked a different landscape? If not, when have you experienced an artwork that powerfully spoke of a place or landscape?

Art shares with landscape the power to move, inspire, comfort, awe and amaze us. I hope they continue to do so for you.

See the APT while it lasts or check out the QAG website for more details on the artists and the show.