Exhibition: 10 June to 11 July, 2009
earthbound continues Stephanie Valentin’s interest in the human imprint on the natural world. To create this series Valentin returned to the area in which she grew up - the semi-arid mallee on the eastern edge of South Australia. Through the interplay of still lives and landscape, Valentin explores our uncertain relationship to the earth’s processes. In the ambiguous light between dusk and full moon, her compositions serve as open-ended experiments, raising questions rather than delivering answers.
Climate change has highlighted the interconnectedness of earth’s natural systems, the biological, atmospheric and geological. Valentin is drawn to this complexity, and to the human desire to measure, grasp and predict aspects of the natural world that continue to elude us.
Eloquently elaborating these concerns, Rainbook depicts the measurements duly noted for the year 1977 in her father’s rain book, which stands open and illuminated in a red field. In the intermittent and diverse recordings, we see the vagaries of nature itself. In the handwritten log, we see the desire to understand, to predict and to harness the rain.
Valentin’s images evoke the landscape as laboratory and stage. They traverse curious scenarios from the chemical to the personal, suggestive of ecological systems askew or human measurement adrift. In Gathering field #3, a mound of scientific vessels and biological samples is set against the arid landscape of Lake Mungo, a now dry inland lake system that was abundant with life 15,000 years ago. In cornucopia scientific vessels are replaced by domestic glassware that shimmers in an empty field.
As in series such as ether (2006), fathom (2004), pollinate (2002) and chiasma (2000) Valentin’s investigations give rise to images that are thoughtful and poetic, asking us to consider the interdependence of living systems and the way human activity impacts upon its environment.
Stephanie Valentin’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and Parliament House, Canberra.