James Tylor: From an untouched landscape
Biannual façade commission
1 Aug 2023 to 4 Feb 2024
Working with media as diverse as photography, sculpture, scent and food, artist James Tylor draws from his Nunga (Kaurna Miyurna), Māori (Te Arawa), Anglo-Celtic, Dutch and Norwegian ancestry to explore Indigenous and colonial histories. Through artworks grounded in knowledge of the past, Tylor explores the continuous effects of 19th-century Australian colonial practices on our cultural identity and environment.
For his commission, Tylor has revisited a trope from an earlier series titled (Deleted scenes) From an untouched landscape (2013). In this series, geometric shapes dominate the foreground of black-and-white photographs of landscapes. Alternately rectangular, square and circular, the shapes are affronting in their incongruity against photographs of empty fields, rolling hills or rugged coastlines. Each image is notable for the absence of people. Tylor disrupts the surface of his digital images through physical intervention, by cutting and positioning a given shape. For this commission, a rectangle has been physically cut from the adhesive vinyl that covers the glass. On the reverse side of the glass, black vinyl deepens the sense of erasure.
For Tylor, these black voids highlight the absence of Australian Aboriginal culture in the contemporary landscape as a direct impact of colonisation. The first British and European colonisers systematically dismantled the sites and tools of Aboriginal cultural and agricultural practices. Aboriginal peoples were displaced, moved off their traditional lands and into small Christian missions and government reserves. The landscape and its inhabitants were cleared, paving the way for European settlements, forestry and farming practices. Tylor has stated:
'This clearing of the landscape resulted in the removal of Indigenous cultural artifacts and our identity from the Australian landscape ... This has left much of the Australian landscape with the appearance that it was "untouched" before European arrival.'
The mythology of a rugged and pristine Australian landscape is a colonial construct. James Tylor draws our attention to the unique continuum of Aboriginal culture despite attempts at eradication.
Image: James Tylor, From an untouched landscape, 2023, digital photograph on adhesive vinyl, 430 x 740 cm. © James Tylor. Courtesy the artist