Natured Space, 2011/12
By Merryn Spencer
Goldsmith’s photographic and installation work over the last few years has developed distinct characteristics – defiant, yet a joyous sensitivity overlaying the haunting images. This solo exhibition draws on her skills as a photographer and digital media artist through carefully planning, execution and installation of works on themes close to her heart.
Echoing her bold photographic images, Goldsmith entered the art world in an unconventional fashion. Her early training as a journalist gave her an edge to telling stories and developed a stunning link to the written word – in my experience, this is unusual for a visual artist. Rather than developing her visual language through formal training, pursuing her own practice has become an opportunity to track a familiar path through the written word, pared elegantly with an impressively mature visual language.
Her passion for the arts allowed her to set up many regional projects focusing on furthering and provoking discussion in the arts sector, in addition to being a prolific practising visual artist. Goldsmith often expresses admiration for Rosalie Gascoigne – experiencing success later in life – application of theory through practical means and creating the wealth of knowledge around experience.
Goldsmith’s inherently strong connection with the land came through a childhood spent exploring, on foot and horseback, the family property near Coonamble, NSW. This show is intrinsic to these connections with the land, spanning mixed media, digital media and installation.
The landscapes in the show have “a moody, spiritual depth” – as Goldsmith describes it. Seen through the eyes of a young person, the images are unfettered, relishing of the natural landscape, joyfully documenting the playful rituals of childhood in both rural and beachside settings.
Goldsmith’s previous series, “Grounded” (2011), featured 50cm square images on aluminium and small Polaroid images with captions, evoking an era long past, with a slightly nostalgic feel. The images in this show expand this particular poignancy, entrenched in a subliminal childhood link back to the landscape.
In the scissor paper rock video, the touches of hypercolour, juxtaposition of play, storytelling and movement becomes an adept language for Goldsmith’s memories. This is told with Goldsmith’s daughter, Georgia, and her friends present throughout the action.
For me, Goldsmith’s works bring back memories of having up to ten cubby houses in the grass in the laneway next to our house, the bruises, the scratches, the games. The secret places to keep treasure. The joys of playing in the natural environment, the natural negotiations that happen with games and how we carry this conflict negotiation into adulthood. Alternatively, it’s the solitariness of playing alone and becoming lost in one’s own world of imaginary games.
Goldsmith’s influence for this body of works stems from our “disconnect from the land” as described in Richard Louv’s Nature deficit-disorder – about the growing divide between children and the natural world. Her visual influences are contemporaries Polixeni Papapetrou, who explores identity and performance in her work, and Tamara Dean who explores ephemeral notions of youth. <a sentence to tie these influences to the body of work maybe?
Use of one’s children in art and the subsequent fixation on child safety in artworks remains a controversial topic in Australia – heightened since the police raid on Bill Henson’s exhibition in 2008. The Australia Council released a Working With Children in Art Portocols in 2010. Last year, a recent consultation with National Association of the Visual Arts (NAVA) resulted in removal of the wording ‘artistic defence’ from the Child Pornography section of the NSW Crimes Act. (NAVA recommended a set of protocols if the work of an artist is considered for prosecution).
Aware of the context in which her works are produced, Goldsmith echoes Del Kathryn Barton’s positive take on the use of one’s own children in artwork, revealed in a recent interview with Andrew Taylor (July 2011) after officials in a charity exhibition objected to the inclusion of Barton’s photograph of her young son. “For me,” she explains, ““what is more beautiful than a mother’s gaze upon her own child?”
Goldsmith appreciates the level of comfort her daughter and some of her friends have in front of the camera and in the landscape, and the understanding they have to develop the narrative for a series of works, or an individual work, together. Rather than the children being the focus of the work, Goldsmith outlines how they assist in the recreation of experiences from her own childhood, evoking their own deep connection to the land.
“The images come to me all the time. It’s tapping into memory of landscape – driving past, seeing it in certain light— bringing the memory back.
“I have to be conscious that the children are not the only subject matter. However, making the concept happen is about finding children who are comfortable in the landscape.”
Through the retelling of her own memories, Goldsmith is aiming to recreate a time when the concept of play was “determined by imagination.”
She is strongly committed to the finished product, guiding the camera to “do as much of the work as possible” with fine tuning, layering, adjustment of colour saturation occurring on the computer in a painstaking post-production process The result is a visually stunning body of work with a strong conviction for the conceptual underpinning.
The physicality of the images sit quietly in our memory. The show feels familiar to anyone who has explored the creatures in the grass, squeezed mud between our toes or climbed a tree. The most delightful concept of all is how this series allows us to reflect on our own childhood in the landscape.
© 2011, Merryn Spencer