Red Chair

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Photograph by Kerry Cross

"Red Chair" is a series of artists talks held at 7.00pm. on the first Wednesday of every month in The Barn at Montsalvat. It's an initiative of the Nillumbik Shire Council in partnership with Montsalvat that's administered under the watchful eye of Irene Pagram, Nillumbik's Co-ordinator of Arts and Cultural Services. It's a partnership Montsalvat is keen to preserve. Last night was the March offering which featured ecological artist Lloyd Godman. That's Lloyd (above) in the red chair with some of his extraordinary work behind. Just when I think Montsalvat couldn't get any better...it does.

All morning I've been wondering how I might do Lloyd and this event justice. In the end, I've decided to just leap in at the deep end and see what happens.  Lloyd has generously allowed me to use images from his website (see images below). His website is the most comprehensive documentation of an artist's work that I've ever seen. It formed the basis of his talk (projected up onto an enormous screen), with anecdotes and explanation from him to fill out the experience.

So how to best describe his work in a nutshell?  Too hard.  When I say he's an ecological artist, what does that mean? It seems that he's not just interested in photographic images and photosynthesis, he's deeply deeply interested in horticulture and preserving the beauty and integrity of the environment.  Bromeliads are his passion. He grows them in enormous number and variety at the Baldessin Press, a  property he shares with partner and artist Tess Edwards in St Andrews.  The work that he described last night shows the abiding connection with ecology/horticulture/the environment, present in some way in all of his artistic endeavour.  

So imagine the devastation he felt over the environmental destruction caused by the Black Saturday fires. The fire front came within six minutes of destroying his home, work place and garden.  A change in the direction of the wind was all that stood between the Baldessin Press and the full force of the raging fire. Friends and neighbours found refuge with Tess and Lloyd after losing their homes. 

What's an artist to do with such a life altering event...In Lloyd's case he spent countless hours taking photos of the bush around his home, first of the utter devastation that surrounded him and later thankfully of the regeneration. These extraordinary photos have been transformed into a work called Entropy exhibited at Montsalvat as part of an exhibition called Symbols of Loss and Recovery. Exhibited in The Barn at Montsalvat, it shows local artists response to the Black Saturday fires. Lloyd's work in particular is a standout. I feel pretty inadequate to the task of bringing you a description of it.  In the end, if this post tweaks your interest, I recommend that you take yourself out to Montsalvat to see it for yourself.  If like me, you felt the effects of that horrible fire, his work will give you great hope in the regenerative power of the environment.

In the early days after the fire, while taking these photos, Lloyd was frequently so affected by the devastation that he would find himself sitting on a log and weeping in the middle of the bush.  It's easy to see why. 

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Armed with hundreds upon hundreds of photos taken over several years, these single images were then realigned to form triptych such as this one below. Lloyd deliberately created the triptych with parts of the image repeated. Each triptych creates an original image- bending and rearranging what the landscape offered.

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During regeneration, on October 16th 2010, it snowed in Kinglake.  These images, enlarged on the screen last night, were breathtakingly beautiful.

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The joy of regeneration tinged with the heartache of devastation.

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Armed with hundreds of photos and triptych the real fun started.  With the aid of two computer programs working in tandem (Lloyd had help from a friend for this bit) the triptych were loaded in. Via the wonders of technology they were thrown up onto the screen in random groupings (as seen in the image below).  From these groupings, smaller (again random) groupings appear... then smaller groupings... until a single tryptich is shown in large format.  A single image from this triptych takes up the screen before another random large group of the triptych appears and the whole random cycle continues.  In this way there is no beginning or end to the work, it's a continuous loop. Apparently when the work was first shown at Tarrawarra Museum of Art, a visitor to the gallery remarked that he had sat in front of it for over an hour and didn't once see the beginning.  I can understand anyone viewing it for that amount of time...it's utterly mesmerising, some would say meditative. 

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There is another piece of Lloyd's work that I would like to showcase.  It was created on the grounds of Montsalvat in May 2007. Not surprisingly given Lloyds aforementioned interest in horticulture, it's an installation involving the Montsalvat glasshouse.  Look out for that one tomorrow. It's just beautiful.

I'll be keeping an eye on the Red Chair event in the future.  What a great experience. For information, check out Nillumbik Shire's website.


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