James Dodd’s artworks, showing this month at the Artspace Gallery at the Adelaide Festival Centre, are the culmination of the 2016 SALA Festival’s Artist in Residence program that Dodd began earlier this year.
For the program, Dodd responded to the iconic Murray River murals of Fred Williams, which were commissioned by the Adelaide Festival Centre for its original opening. “Throughout the residency, I have been thinking about Fred’s paintings and the motifs and tropes he uses in ways of formatting and whether they may lead into ways I like to work,” Dodd says. Along with the inlay paintings by Williams, which still hang in the foyer, are a number of etchings the iconic landscape painter created that are not often on display. Dodd connected with both the paintings and the etchings, finding links to his own practice and the representation of landscape. Like Williams, who travelled along the Murray River on a houseboat, Dodd took a similar journey in a tinny to get a feel for the landscape. While Williams worked ‘en plein air’, he often returned to the studio to emulate what he saw when he was in the field. Dodd works in a similar way. His paintings are not necessarily a faithful reproduction of a landscape but, rather, capture the textures and the way the place feels. “It was more that Fred had a sense of a place and he was developing a response to that, which resonates with me,” Dodd says. In the case of the Murray River works, Dodd presents a contemporary view of the environment incorporating elements of graffiti discovered on his journey along the Murray. “I connect with the translation of low cultural outcomes such as graffiti into high culture like what we put in galleries now.”
Puss Head, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, with Victorian Ash tray frame, 610 x 765mm
While using scrawled texts is something Dodd has experimented with in the past, by thinking about how Williams worked, Dodd is now approaching the material in new ways. “I am using a lot of the scratched marks to define or create the landscape,” he says. “I’m letting these found marks build an abstract landscape.” The process of incising – used to create this graffiti – is similar to the process of making an etching plate; another link Dodd discovered. “I am using the long scratch marks to delineate horizon lines or forms in the landscape and I’m also thinking about those kinds of textures and how they might imitate textures in the landscape like the surface in the water,” Dodd says.
James Dodd, Brian Johnson, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, with Victorian Ash tray frame, 765 x 610mm
Along with the paintings, Dodd is also exhibiting a boat – a hybrid between a tinny, a bicycle, and a paddle steamer. Through delving into Williams’s work methods, this project has allowed Dodd to extend his practice and provide audiences with a unique interpretation of the Murray River as Williams did all those years ago. James Dodd Artspace Gallery, Adelaide Festival Centre August 19-September 3 adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au Header image: James Dodd, Mildura Boys (exhibititon view.), 2016, Acrylic on linen with Victorian Ash tray frame, 560 x 1500mm