An urban cathedral to art and nature

Kirstin Berg The Returning

by Charlotte Aldenhoven

In this globally networked world of urban growth and decay we have been granted access to all types of information and imagery. We have come to realise that we are more or less at an environmental and psychological tipping point.

The way we imagine the landscape around us is an important factor in how we come to terms with our hopes, fears and the role that we play in society.

Using nature as a mirror to our own experience, Kirstin Berg aims to expand the dimensions of our inner landscape in her new installation show, Tragedy’s Cathedral, at Gallerysmith.

Kirstin’s work seeks to depict a subterranean or unconscious reflection of the world that we find ourselves in, and our compulsion to relentlessly create and destroy monuments that mark our most profound experiences.

She starts by sourcing the limitless power of nature, sacred architecture and human drama. In doing so, her work seeks to overhaul the typical gallery experience and convert the space into an augmented cathedral of Mother Earth and human nature.

Kirstin has been working as an artist since 2000. She lived in Europe from 2003 to 2009 and now lives between Berlin and Melbourne. She signed on to the stable of Gallerysmith’s artists in 2009 and since then has gone from strength to strength.

It was while travelling through Italy and France last year that Kirstin first had the idea of transforming a gallery space into a cathedral.

“In all the spaces I visited, there was a fascinating tension between ideas of oblivion and commemoration. These cathedrals are simultaneously places of mourning and celebration, tragic and ecstatic, full of beauty and horror,” Kirstin recalls.

“I am interested in these contradictions and the redemption that can be found through the paradoxical processes of life and art.”

Kirstin combines those concepts of human spirituality and has incorporated elements of Mother Nature and the dynamism of the Australian bush. One of her works, Urban Cathedral: Bush Voodoo, refers to both the seen and unseen influences of the primal and elemental forces that occur in nature.

Urban Cathedral: Bush Voodoo presents an amalgamation of multiple elemental forces at play, a deliberately jarring blend of manmade and naturally occurring environmental power. It is highly evocative of the bushfires that plague the Australian countryside and Kirstin’s work reminds us that the energy within nature has always been a source of wonder for mankind.

“Its forms and processes are a huge power source and I try to tap into this energy,” Kirstin says.

There are millions of unknowable forces at work in nature and in the making of art, and through Kirstin’s careful placement and use of materials we can feel this energy brimming through her work.

The installation will build on large-scale works on paper, made from fire ash, pigment, India ink and watercolour. The show will also comprise sculptural works made from painted bush debris, reclaimed timber, plaster, rock and glass. These materials she mostly found in the bush or extracted from demolition sites, which contributes to the idea of destruction and renewal.

Having been assembled through an arduous process of hunting, gathering and gleaning, the materials exhibit a fundamental spirituality and connection with nature. The evident battle involved in transforming the materials into something else contributes to the meaning and potency of the artworks.

The overall planned exhibition takes these concepts to new heights with the entire gallery space converted into one of Kirstin’s burnt-out urban cathedrals.

The Gallerysmith art gallery has been designed intentionally as a large open space to allow artists like Kirstin to be ambitious with their art.

Not only that, but the upper floor of the Gallerysmith building has been expanded within the last 18 months to include studio spaces for artists such as Kirstin and also the more experimental ‘Gallerysmith project space’. The project space was opened up for young unrepresented artists as an opportunity to broaden their range and offer some exposure.

For Kirstin’s installation the gallery will be transformed into ‘Tragedy’s Cathedral’, a vast shrine to the paradoxical processes of art and nature.

Tragedy’s Cathedral: New Landscapes by Kirstin Berg

From 21 April to 21 May 2016

Opening Function Saturday 30 April 4.00pm to 6.00pm. All welcome!

Gallerysmith

170–174 Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne

http://www.gallerysmith.com.au

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