/19 Australia

Siri Hayes

En plein air

En plein air is the result of focusing on Latrobe Valley area in Victoria, Australia. Latrobe Valley is home to four large brown-coal fuel-base-load power stations that produces 85% of the state of Victoria’s energy. One was recently listed as the least energy efficient in the OCED by the WWF.

In each work I investigated notions of place using an art historical filter. I make reference to various historical European paintings (pastoral, romantic and renaissance) as a method of contrasting the contemporary degraded landscape with ideas of pure wilderness perpetrated in these cultures and old paintings.

For example in Plein air explorers a life drawing class staged amongst recently felled plantation pine overlooking the Latrobe Valley. The class ignores their surrounds to focus on the naked life model who absurdly takes on the stance of Casper David Friedrich’s Wanderer above a sea of mist. The life model stares out to the distant smoke stacks of a power station on the horizon.

With Wanderer above a sea of images I returned to the same site and placed myself approximately where the life model had been. In the 18 months since I photographed the Plein air explorers the devastating Black Saturday fires had swept through the site. Like Friedrich’s Wanderer and the naked life model I took on a similar pose. I hold my iPhone up to the changed landscape in the way most people seem to mediate all their experiences these days.