Silvi Glattauer: Renegotiating the landscape. Megalo Print Gallery, 21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston. Until May 7. megalo.org.
Silvi Glattauer's Renegotiating the landscape is a stunning show where beauty is combined with a savage and brutal content. The eye is seduced by the beauty of forms, while the mind is repulsed by the realisation of what is being witnessed.
Glattauer is an Argentinian-born, Melbourne-based printmaker who has an international reputation for her work with photogravure. It was a technique that was developed early in the 19th century as a way to transfer a photographic image onto an etching printing plate so that it could be printed in a conventional manner with a traditional printing press.
By the 20th century, it became largely obsolete as more effective forms of photographic reproduction became available and, as with a number of other superseded technologies, it became the domain of artists.
Glattauer, together with several other practitioners, has adopted a further modification to the photoetching technique and instead of acids and bitumen grounds, she employs photopolymer plates that use sunlight and water but generally print like a normal etching plate.
The technique is frequently called Photo-polymergravure or polymer photogravure and has its share of proselytising zealots.
The alchemy of the printing process needs to be explained because the prints themselves appear effortless and striking where a heightened form of realism appears within an etching.
Glattauer's prints have a crystalline starkness - like a form of hyperrealism - where the imagery appears to be pushed beyond the simple mimetic and a direct representation of observed reality to something slightly surreal and uncanny.
The Carbon Black series may have had its origins in a landscape charred by ferocious bushfire, but the prints speak of a reality that lies beyond the one that is simply observed.
After a fire has passed through the landscape, trees no longer appear firmly rooted in the ground, but appear to ambiguously float above the ground. In Carbon Black II, the expressive forms of the tea-trees loom mysteriously naked within the denuded ground.
Tree trunks in other prints in the series carry the scars of a burnt environment, one where climate change is transforming the natural world with disastrous consequences.
Renegotiating the landscape is a major series of prints that invite the viewer to meditate on the human impact on nature.
Glattauer writes: "You are invited to detach from the beauty of the grand vista and feel the disorientation these landscapes represent. Our intervention in the course of nature's flow, is questioned...
"The hand-made print allows one to work at a slower pace. It gives one the opportunity to consider and ponder the subject and intentions. The materiality of the photogravure objects echoes the preciousness of these landscapes that are being re-negotiated by our interference."
Prints including Renegotiating Lake Eyre, Renegotiating Lake Frome I, Renegotiating Kosciuszko and Renegotiating the Oasis, all from 2019-2022, negotiate a complex narrative where the photographic beauty of a spectacular vista is frequently combined with cartographic detail and a layering of imagery.
The eye is drawn to this wonderful panoramic view, but then as evidence of the human intervention becomes increasingly apparent you become aware that you are observing a fragile veneer that appears increasingly under threat.
Glattauer's prints may be seductive in their aesthetic appeal but in a subtle manner guide the viewer's mind to question the permanence of the reality that we are witnessing. It is a powerful and deeply moving experience.
Silvi Glattauer's Renegotiating the landscape is the final exhibition associated with the Aquifer: Art + Climate + Water project that was initiated by Belco Arts.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.