Imaginings & Portals : 2012 - 2016
Installation at Murray Bridge Gallery, Feb 5th - March 27, 2016 Murray Bridge Regional Gallery, SA
This series of paintings developed from the intersection of many events and ideas, proceeding onto an artistic journey exploring a variety of themes.
Firstly, a dawn flight over Eyre Peninsula to conduct workshops for Country Arts resulted in the large 'Imagine' triptych with a reference to the words of John Lennon's song of the same name. The key for the colour connection was the reflection of the sunrise in the 'high viz' jackets worn by the F.I.F.O. miners on their travels to work in and around Ceduna.
As grounds for contemplation they encapsulate a number of coinciding events. A volcano erupting in South America grounding aircraft in Port Lincoln and the conflation of this with the melt down of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima after the disastrous tsunami of 2011.
The 'sky' and the 'sea' has no fixed borders, all is fluid. This synchronicity encoded by colour became the basis for the elliptical shaped 'portals' works. As reality shifts in time and place these works stylistically spin off my early seventies 'Space Series' works. My interest in ellipses, colour and illusion is paramount along with mines, shafts, sinkholes, caves and craters I have experienced in my travels around Australia.
The early thematic of the mining landscape developed their enigmatic readings with visual conundrums that re-contextualised into other references and titles as the series progressed. In short there was a move from the terrestrial to the celestial. The astronomical and the cosmological re-entered the works with the recent space probes of 'Cassini' and 'New Horizons'. Concepts around black holes and dark energy allow us to think about stepping from one reality in to another.
Portal works Small works on elliptical shaped canvases that explore colour movement and ideas around shafts, caverns and orbs. Notions around stepping from one reality to another that pick up on my seventies colour and sci-fi paintings. PORTAL 10 - Ochres and Oxides, 59.9 x 81.3 cm PORTAL 5 - Clive's Coal Face or Black Hole? 59.9 x 81.3 cm PORTAL 1 - Lasseter's Labyrinth, 59.9 x 81.3 cm PORTAL 17 - Desert Dusk - Calling Major Tom, 59.9 x 81.3 cm, PORTAL 15 - Sunset Booulevard with Cassini Calling, 59.9 x 81.3 cm PORTAL 7 - Emerald City - Coober Pedy Dreaming, 59.9 x 81.3 cm PORTAL 12 - Begin Again - Pilbara Hiccup, 59.9 x 81.3 cm Installation at Riddoch Regional Gallery, Mt Gambier, 2016
Catalogue for Riddoch Regional Gallery Mt Gambier, 2016
John Neylon is an Adelaide art writer and curator
There are times in history when the stars align and art and science discover each other like long lost cousins. Goddard is a love child of such an era - the Atomic or Space Age of the mid twentieth century - the launch of Sputnik in 1957, pictures of the far side of the moon in 1959 and the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969. The Space Age left a streamlined imprint on everything from architecture to kitchenware, fashion, music and TV shows like The Jetsons. A distinctive art and design aesthetic extrapolated in the 1950s and 1960s - all glass, chrome and plastic, amoeba-like shapes, split atom star bursts and Chevys sprouting rocket fins. The Atomic Age wasn't all about the Cold War's threat of nuclear annihilation. Post World War 11 optimism found expression in Pop art's celebration of consumerism, the exuberance of abstract expressionism and, as the 60s morphed into the 70s, a celebration of optical razzle dazzle expressed in shape play, pattern and bright, pure colour. For imagery that captures the spirit of the era look no further than Pink Floyd's 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon album cover of a prism dispersing light as colour or Milton Glaser's 1966 poster of Bob Dylan with psychedelic hair.
Colour was in the air when Goddard undertook his art training at the South Australian School of Art in the late 50s - early 60s. A brand of shape-colour ethos underpinned design-based studies presented by Art School lecturers Helen Macintosh, Meg Douglas and Geoff Wilson, introduced the ideas of Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Joseph Albers and Victor Vasarely and primed acceptance for a diversity of colour, shape-based minimal art from Mark Rothko to Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella and Bridget Riley. Goddard was convinced at the time that his creative journey should be grounded in some kind of reality rather than become a superficial pursuit of the latest trends. While the current day, bold chromatic, pattern-rich style of expression carries the imprint of formative years, his imagery is the product of a sustained engagement with the Australian landscape as envisaged through the prism of his observant and imaginative eye. What makes this engagement remarkable is that it has always been set within a broad, cosmic context in which the physical earth, with its topographies and geologies is redefined by deep time and space. Goddard's early investigations were informed in part by photographic illustrations and articles in the journal, Scientific American. The first moon landing, satellites tracking the earth and the excitement of the space race era provided the context for bodies of work in which space became a metaphor for altered states of consciousness. Suddenly the zone between scientific time-space theories and diagrams on the one hand and imaginative speculation and imagery narrowed. Goddard's first publicly exhibited works, the Space Series (1969 - 1970) explored related ideas. In works such as Solar Spin Off, Mercuric Flight and Anti Matter Moves Out, the artist 'floated' gravity free forms within visually disorientating, diamond shaped canvases. A following Colour Form series (1971- 74) embodied influences of 'Op' and 'Pop' styles (from exhibitions seen in London and New York) plus the artist's first contact with Islamic Art in southern Spain and Morocco. In this series of paintings consisting of richly coloured regular forms floating in space - chalices, cones and fans - a distinctive motif of the shaft or void, began to assert itself. As Goddard comments, 'My interest in ellipses, colour and illusion is paramount, along with mines, shafts, sink holes and craters I have experienced in my travels around Australia.'
Cut to the present. This current exhibition consists of nineteen holes in space (complemented by a large 'skyscape' painting Imagine Dreaming). Their premise is absurd when considered within Goddard's entire practice which has always been, apparently, about 'the big picture'. From his earliest landscape studies, Goddard's instincts have gravitated to the underlying structures and patterns of the earth's crust. Underlying all his work is a sense of Australia as a vast, ancient land in which the inexorable forces of nature are ever present and reminders of fragility of humanity's hold on this place are many. A favourite visual device to encapsulate this idea has been striation or layering structures which not only document specific geologies of such places as the Flinders Ranges and the volcanic landscape of South Australia's lower south-east but also recognise the inexorable cycles of time and cataclysmic events which have the final say on what lives and what dies on the planet. There is a corresponding sense of this in the artist's many seascape subjects in which the metronomic beat of the sea's immense energy lies barely below the surface.
Eighteen of the nineteen holes in space are 'real' in the sense that they reference, 'The World's Longest Golf Course'. Road travelers between Adelaide and Perth have the option of playing the Nullabor Links - a series of golfing holes spaced from Ceduna to Kalgoorlie. But as the paintings titles, such as Lasseter's Labyrinth, Rinehart Red - Lang's Legacy, Pilbara Pink - For Fred and Clive's Coal face or Black Hole suggest, this nomads' playground is a pretext for a set of ironic, whimsical and nostalgic reflections on life as it continues to be served up in this wide brown land. Equally as serendipitous are the titling and circumstance of Imagine Dreaming. The 'view out the plane window' skyscape is real enough. It came from an early morning flight, made by the artist, from Adelaide to Ceduna. But at another level it it is anything but. Goddard's eye was caught by the sun reflecting off a FIFO worker's high vis jacket and his imagination by all that this meant in terms of people journeying and working a long way from home - and as miners.? Will Australia ever see itself more that a hole waiting to be dug? And will Gina Reinhart's red dress ever match the majestic red of a Pilbara escarpment - or for that matter a Fred Williams pink-red landscape? These kinds of thoughts that accompany the inquisitive, free-range traveler tumbled into random but associative order as Goddard began to join the dots. A volcano erupting in South America = planes grounded in Pt. Lincoln = Goddard working with Aboriginal people of the West Coast Yalata community displaced by Maralinga atomic testing of the 1950s -1960s. The flying saucer - like ellipses in Imagine Dreaming = the contamination from the Fukushima nuclear plant melt down = thinking about a place once visited, Albuquerque, and its links to the (nuclear) Manhattan Project. From here it is only a stone's throw in association with the Cassini-Huygens space probe (Sunset Boulevard with Cassini Calling) and 'The Man who fell to Earth' (Desert Dusk - Calling Major Tom). Goddard has described these works as 'shaped canvases that explore colour movement and ideas around shafts, caverns and orbs' and 'notions around stepping from one reality to another.'
But to ask eighteen very small holes in the ground scattered across a vast distance to somehow represent reality shifts is surely too much of a stretch. Totally absurd even. But absurdity and contradiction have always been active ingredients in Goddard's practice. The powerful illusionist components, such as spirals and elliptical 'holes', of his Space Series works were always seeking to contradict one another. They never really made complete visual sense. Goddard, alert to contemporary events and technologies that are accelerating the exploration of both terrestrial and celestial realms views this never ending story through a prism of metaphoric speculation in which even the simplest event such as The Wombat Hole at Nundroo (Par 5 520m) or Nullabor Nymph at Eucla Beach ( Par 4 315m) as translated by art in the Portal Series might suddenly change from a fancy free flying object hanging on a gallery wall to a worm hole in space charged with dark matter and a wealth of possibilities.
John Neylon is an Adelaide art writer and curator