tree, Waitpinga

This is another  local tree. It is  on the roadside of a country road in Waitpinga, South Australia that I often walk down.   

The  picture was made in 2016 whilst I was on an early  morning  poodlewalk.

I discovered last night that Sophie Cunningham  has a tree of the day Instagram account.  Mary Macpherson   has a book of trees in New Zealand called Bent.  I am sure that there are other photographers photographing tree apart from Beth Moon.   

emptying the landscape

Arboraphobia”, the fear of trees  makes sense given the massacre of trees that is our revenge on the choking bush. 

The pioneer settlers  possessed a “psychopathic fear of the gum or the wattle”. Then there is  the zeal with which bulldozers levelled the ground before  post-war suburbs were built; and  Tasmania’s continuing determination to churn up ancient forests and sift them into woodchip? 

Trees are associated with darkness and anxiety specific to the Australian colonial experience of  the Australian bush. The Australian landscape must be stripped of its trees--along with  the Aboriginal presence--- if room is to be made for its colonisers. This  was so even though settler Australia's  vision of the landscape as empty, unwelcoming bush or desert.

4 trees on Baum Rd

This blog has transformed into a photoblog  about trees including what happens to trees once they have been cut down.   

These photographs are not of  trees in the wilderness.  I live in a place where there are trees,  and I  frequently  photograph them a lot whilst I am on my poodle walks.  This  photographing of  trees  then extends  to  my road trips.  These are mostly trees in agricultural landscapes.  

A picture of four trees on local  country road--Baum Rd-- which were  photographed on a  late afternoon walk on an overcast day. The  rain was coming in from the south-west. 

Robin Boyd, a critic of suburban sprawl, coined the term "arboraphobia," or white Australia's fear of trees, that led to massive razing of land to create a paved suburban landscape.  A suburbia  that is a wasteland,  a dry, ugly cement landscape of the suburbs; mangy backyards with pathetic garden plots and dark, claustrophobic interiors with cracked walls and ceilings and, ironically, floral carpets. These images are linked to moral aridity, sexual dysfunction, the sterile suffocation of suburban living, and the dread of natural growth invading the house.   


re-reading the Australian landscape tradition

The traditional interpretation of the Australian landscape is one of majestic gums and sunlight plains--exemplified by Hans Heysen---  rather than the  sublime's darker twilight landscape that evokes a sense of eeriness and unease; or  the landscape as transformed by human beings through farming. 

This landscape has been carved up for family-style farming and it has become private property.  All that is left as a public space are  the roads between the boundaries of the private property.   A  dirt road, a fence,  and remnant roadside vegetation. 


the Australian landscape tradition

The subject matter of this  conceptual photographic project --pink gum and Xanthorrhoea---means that it is a particular representation of part of the Australian landscape. It works within the Australian landscape tradition that aimed to reveal to Australians the landscape of their country in their own place and time. 

This is a tradition in which the landscape is the dominant image of Australia--eg., Arthur Streeton's The Land of the Golden Fleece (1926)---and whose imagery has been reworked and undergone regeneration and redefinition. Examples include John Glover,  Eugene von Guerard, the  Heidleberg School, Hans Heysen, Albert Namatjira,  Russell Drysdale etc.  The imagery was usually interpreted  in terms of a concern for a national identity,  Australian dependency and isolation, and the creation of a national style.   

Modernism was defined both in terms of and against the hegemony  of this regional tradition in which artists were seen to do little more than represent nature. It was naturalism. Bernard Smith in Australian Painting argued that after 1945 modernist imagery gradually supplanted  traditional and conservative imagery of a regional naturalism.

The latter was deemed to be provincal and resistant to nonfiguration, whilst modernist abstraction  was deemed to be international, innovative and avant gardist.  International was actually New York as the dominant centre of modernist art,   American abstraction and Clement Greenberg.

The latter failed to see that  abstraction was a tradition whose imagery has been reworked and undergone regeneration and redefinition and that the images in both  the abstraction and naturalist traditions  emerge from, and are an expression of, the place in which we live. This gives rise to  a regional art in a global world.