Rob Blakers Rock, ice, rainforest
Landscape photography takes us out of the studio and away from the situations that we control. It is the engagement of thought and planning, strenuous travel and intuition. It is the art of finding ourselves in places where we are drawn into subtle nature, and of seeking images that convey that experience.
This exhibition presents moments from wild landscapes in Tasmania. It comes from fine winter light on ice and mountains, elegant sand-dunes and sand-stone, and ephemeral mist in quiet forest. It is the amazing Tasmanian endemic gondwanan flora and lingering twilight over the western sea. It is a collection of encounters, mostly recent, from three decades of pursuit.
Read Rob’s opening speech below.
Olivia Hickey Topophilia
Artist statement: I am an explorer of the outdoors with a deep and long held connection to the wild places. I am often drawn to the hidden details within the land and find myself captivated by the complexity and beauty in the small. I collect natural treasures mindfully, transmute them into silver and return them to place.
This process ensures that they are still part of the land and highlights the magic of the hidden details. I strive to capture the intangible moments and create talismans that connect people to the ephemeral elements of place so they can be worn on the landscape of the body.
Opening speech by Rob Blakers
Rock, Ice, Rainforest
Wild Island, February 5th 2016
“Almost half of the images on display tonight are in the direct line of the fires that continue to burn in western Tasmania.
The 100 and more fires that were lit by lightning strikes on 13th January have had a devastating impact on the Tasmanian natural landscape, and in particular on rainforest and alpine communities, which have no tolerance for fire. Fire has burnt at the edge of Australia’s largest rainforest wilderness in the Tarkine, and rolled around the western end of the Central Plateau, and at Lake Mackenzie and the February Plains, for more than 3 weeks. Trees, plants and organic soils that were upwards of a thousand years old have been killed. In a warming and drying climate this is a one-way process – those communities will not come back.
The loss of the highland Gondwanic endemics – pencil and King Billy pines, cushion plants and other alpine species, has been ongoing since white colonization of Tasmania. Less than half of the pencil pines that grew here 200 years ago now remain. Most of that loss has been caused by people, through fires that were deliberately lit and also through fires started inadvertently.
The fires of the last several weeks are different and mark the era in which we now find ourselves. We still have direct human folly, but the consequences of indirect human folly have, for the first time in history, eclipsed those. The fires that began on the 13th are not natural fires but are one terrible way in which climate change now manifests in Tasmania.
In the decade from 1993 to 2003 there were 17 wildfires ignited by lightning strikes in Tasmania. In the decade that followed there were 30. In the last month alone there have been upwards of 130. This, coupled with the driest summer ever recorded in western Tasmania, makes a critically dangerous situation. It is precisely what the climate change modeling predicted.
Pencil and King Billy pines are wonderful things; they have been my favorites since I first came to Tasmania. The highland Gondwanan landscapes are unique in Australia, and corresponding high altitude long lived trees are globally rare and diminishing. In light of these fires, however, I now see the alpine pine communities differently. I saw them before as an incredibly special and beautiful feature of the Tasmanian highlands. I still see them as that, but now see them also as fragile relicts that need our utmost protection. These plants have been around for 65 million years yet today face unprecedented threats. To lose them in the wild in coming decades, a very real prospect, would be a hideous indictment.
In their destructive spread the fires have cast a pall of smoke over Tasmania. They have also cast a pall over the collective mood of most of the people that I know – people who understand and care for wild places. It’s grief at the specific loss of ancient pines and deep rainforest, but it is more than that. For many of us this event has touched a dread that we have carried, not always consciously, for decades. It’s the understanding that humans have plundered the planet for selfish ends for a long time and that the inevitable consequences of that abuse are now in play.
Climate change has landed on our shores and today’s fires are a part of that, but plainly the crisis affects more than our beautiful pencil pines and rainforests. We are in a fight for the life of the planet.
The dread that we feel, and the events that are becoming increasingly apparent globally, can be powerful motivators. Faced with dire questions of our own survival, there has never been such incentive for positive change. To not fight is to plunge further into denial and despair. Our past cannot be our future.
We need to reduce our own impacts and help those either unable or unwilling, to also do so. We need to cultivate our vegetable plots and cultivate our resourcefulness, creativity and intuition.
Let’s hope that in a hundred years we can all look around and see the places in these pictures – flourishing groves of pencil and King Billy pine at Mt Anne, the Arthurs, and in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, verdant rainforest in the Weld and the Northeast, (and of course in the Tarkine National Park), all being rained bountifully upon in a repairing Tasmanian climate.”