Handmark, 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart

This exhibition was opened on Friday 29 May 2015 and continued until 22 June 2015.

Guest Speaker Peter Timms, renowned Australian author, journalist, social historian, and critic, gave the following, annotated, speech.


"Let’s begin with ARISTOTLE. After all, a lot of things do begin with Aristotle. He’s one of the essential foundations of Western intellectual life. But he did he get a lot of things wrong. Enough, in fact, to have made him something of a standing joke on QI. (There’s something slightly distasteful, isn’t there, about a couple of English comedians making a mockery of one of history’s greatest minds)

For example: Aristotle thought that all the stars and planets were hurtling towards the centre of the earth, because for some reason they were very keen to get there.
He insisted that the earth does not move, because, if it did, an object thrown directly upward would be left behind instead of coming down on your head.

And, if you drop a big rock and a small pebble from the same height, the big rock will hit the ground first because it’s heavier.

Now, you can sort of see where he was coming from, can’t you?

There is a certain logic at work it’s just that it sometimes leads him astray.

It wasn’t until 2000 years later, in the early 17th century, that Galileo disproved the theory that objects of different weights fall at different speeds. And he did it simply by dropping a couple of objects and observing what happened.

Now, you’d think the Greeks would have thought of that, wouldn’t you?

But their minds simply didn’t work that way.

In fact, they considered any knowledge attained by observation of the material world just wasn’t worth having.

(I think it was just intellectual snobbery on their part)

The Pythagoreans had insisted that the laws of the cosmos were mathematical. Understand the maths and you could understand everything.

Well, not quite.

We now know that mathematics, by itself, won’t explain anything.

You have to observe, very carefully, and you have to interpret what you observe.

In other words, you need VISION and you need POETRY.

It’s interesting that Ancient Greek artists, on the other hand, were brilliant observers as you can well appreciate when you stand in front of the Laocoon or the Venus de Milo

Sadly, though, it was only the human body they were interested in, not nature. In fact, nature, as we understand it, didn’t exist for them.

Nature, as we understand it, was invented in the seventeenth century, (well, I’m generalising, of course, but that’s basically true).

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These days, the situation has been more or less reversed: Scientists - (biologists, botanists, physicists, anthropologists and so on) - are fastidious observers.

After all, that’s what science largely consists of: OBSERVATION.

Whereas writers, poets and painters are more likely to proceed from first principles.

They tend to have a very clear idea of what they think nature is (typically it’s a sort of harmonious and beautiful place of refuge, a sort of GARDEN OF EDEN) which saves them from having to do the hard slog of observing.

The English naturalist, Richard Smith, has a description of our response to nature that I rather like:

He says: “We use nature in the way children and young animals use play - to explore ourselves, stretch our limbs and test our limits, to ask ourselves who we are, what we mean, and Nature is interesting because we are interesting.”

The upshot is that we are not allowed to be NOT interested in nature any more. It is us and we are it. So to be uninterested in nature is to be uninterested in our own humanity.

This exhibition is an object lesson in Vision and Poetry but vision and poetry based upon careful observation of the natural world.

Both David and Andrea know how to look closely, to observe, and to properly interpret what they observe.

And yet their interpretations could hardly be more different.

David’s drawings represent the aesthetics of the SUBLIME

While Andrea’s ceramics represent the aesthetics of WONDER.

‘Sublime’ is a much abused word these days (we even gush over a ‘sublime cup of coffee’ or a sublime cake).

Like ‘awesome’, it has pretty much lost its meaning.

Originally, the sublime was all about the true feeling of awe, the feeling of human insignificance before an all-powerful, dangerous, unknowable nature. But not in a bad way, the sublime is thrilling and exciting even though it’s scary ‘A sort of delightful horror’ as Edmund Burke put it in the eighteenth century.

I must say, my ears prick up when David Edgar talks about “The entrapment of place” immediately I sit up and take notice. It sounds deliciously threatening, doesn’t it.

The place he’s talking about is Tasman Island where he has spent periods every year since 2001, doing battle with the weather and the harsh rocky landscape and, presumably, with his own loneliness and discomfort. The nature he’s interested in is both enticing and terrible. This is definitely not the Garden of Eden. There are no footholds, for example, and there’s nothing soft or inviting.

Just look at the way his rock formations slide away into deep black voids. The only organic life is a few lichen clinging to the rocks. It might be beautiful, but you wouldn’t want to spend your holidays there.

On the other hand, there’s WONDER, which is the philisophical opposite of the sublime. According to our old friends, the ancient Greeks, wonder is the beginning of all philosophy. It’s the feeling of admiration, and delight in things (as in the expression, ‘I’m lost in wonder’.) It’s all about surprise and the pleasures of not knowing which, of course, sparks a spirit of enquiry.

Andrea says: “The way I work is with gesture, quickly - essential information recorded into simple hand-built pinch-pots. A three-dimensional drawing of sorts, a dance.’ That could almost be a definition of the aesthetics of wonder, with its emphasis on process, playfulness, and discovery. And I must say, the lightness and springiness of Jye Edwards’ beautiful tables make them the ideal dance partners.

Andrea’s epicalyx platters make the connection to the natural world explicit. (An epi-calyx, for the uninitiated, is a rosette of bracts on a plant stem just beneath the flower head)

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So here we have two artists, both seeped in nature - observing, interpreting and seeking to understand the environment around them and, by implication, seeking to understand themselves.

Yet approaching from two opposing sides.

So that, together, they set up a lively and stimulating dialogue.

Observe these works closely, give them your time and they will reward you with a richer and more subtle understanding of your world and of yourself.

If, as Richard Smith says: “Nature is interesting because we are interesting.” Then I think this exhibition makes us all very interesting indeed."


(This speech was prepared as a talk and is not intended for publication.)

Conflict, charcoal and pastel on paper, 87 x 87cm, 2015 Cultivation, charcoal on paper, 87 x 87cm, 2015 Emerging, charcoal on paper, 87 x 87cm, 2015 Estranged, charcoal on paper, 87 x 87cm, 2015 In the valley, charcoal on paper, 50 x 50cm, 2015 Incentive, charcoal on paper, 50 x 50cm, 2015 (sold) Individualism, charcoal on paper, 50 x 50cm, 2015 Locality, charcoal on paper, 87 x 87cm, 2015 (sold) Morphology of the cultural landscape, charcoal on paper, 90 x 93cm, 2014 (sold) Narrow extremities, charcoal on paper, 95 x 95cm, 2015 Outside 2, charcoal on paper, 105 x 105cm, 2015 Overcrowded, charcoal on paper, 87 x 87cm, 2015 Penetrating the origin, charcoal on paper, 95 x 92cm, 2015 Preconditioning, charcoal on paper, 50 x 50cm, 2015 Rudimentary, charcoal on paper, 93 x 93cm, 2015 Staged scenery, charcoal on paper, 95 x 91cm, 2015 (sold)