Surreal Australian landscapes form new exhibition

October 3, 2017

Gwenaël Velge

Aerial view: Gwenaël Velge photographs WA landscapes from a paraglider

Stunning abstract images of Western Australian landscapes from above will be part of a new exhibition by a Murdoch University PhD researcher.

Gwenaël Velge from the School of Arts has been photographing the sublime landscapes of the Australian outback for the last six years, often from a paraglider.

His latest collection features images from the Perth metropolitan region and the South West region of WA, and will be on display from October 6-20 at the PS Art Space in Fremantle.

“I love surfing, and love the ocean and waves down South. But I also have a growing appreciation for the urban landscapes around Fremantle. Photography has made me consider places I would not have considered otherwise,” said Mr Velge.

“I have fallen in love with the outback over the last few years. The area around Marble Bar in the Pilbara has been an area I love returning to and a place where I felt I found something genuinely Australian.”

The 15 images and five sculptures/installations that form the exhibition are related to Mr Velge’s exploration for his PhD of the concept of ‘the sublime’, the modern aesthetics tied to it and the difficulties we face to live sustainably within fragile ecosystems.

Mr Velge said he believes his Belgian origins play a role in his approach to landscape photography, which can often result in surreal images.

“Belgium is known for its surrealism and a certain lightness in its approach to what reality is or should be,” he said.

“In my view, photography is more interesting and functions better as a medium to challenge and alter the real than a medium that records the real objectively.

“Toying with all these crazy ideas is a lot of fun but it is also a better way to ask what is essential in this reality we find ourselves in.”

Flying ultralights with his father since childhood, Mr Velge began piloting paragliders solo when he was 11. He moved to WA in 2009 and began taking aerial photographs of the outback in 2011. A self-published book of his images, entitled Inhabited: a clear view from the sky, came out in 2012.

With a background in sociology and political science, Mr Velge began his PhD studies at Murdoch after learning about the concept of ‘solastalgia’, coined and explored by former Murdoch academic Professor Glenn Albrecht. Solastalgia describes a form of distress caused by environmental change, such as mining or climate change.

He is now being supervised by Associate Professor Mick Broderick from the School of Arts and will soon be submitting his final dissertation and creative works for his PhD.

Mr Velge’s interest in parallax – the difference in the apparent position of an object if viewed along two different lines of sight – will be on show in the exhibition.

“Flying, especially when flying with others, is the best way to really feel this ‘ungrounded’ smooth and effortless change of perspective,” said Mr Velge.

“It can provide you with a kind of detachment from reality, but it makes me feel reality more intensely.

“I take inspiration from many artists and thinkers, and closer to home, from my wife. She has an incredibly elegant way to deal with form and pushes me to explore outside of photography.

“Photographically, I have been deeply touched by Ruben Brulat’s Sharing Paths, which deals with humans’ relationship to landscape in a very intimate and emotional way without ever getting ‘close’ or personal.”

The exhibition, entitled 1.81 simulation / simulacra / Sisyphus, will open on Friday, 6 October, at 6pm, with an introduction by Dr Ionat Zurr from SymbioticA.

For more information about Mr Velge’s work and details of his upcoming exhibition, click here.

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