It’s a little out-of-the-ordinary for a contemporary art exhibition to be so directly influenced by the space in which it will be shown. ‘I wanted to make work that responded to Chapter House Lane – next to St Paul’s Cathedral with a view of the gumtrees just beyond Federation Square on the Yarra River. This tension between the built environment and the landscape were the starting point in developing the series,’ explains Maddison Kitching of his forthcoming showcase, ‘A Partial View’.
The 10 paintings – all enamel, acrylic and oil paint on plywood panels – feature landscapes of Narrm (Melbourne) in pre-colonial times, both imagined and researched by the artist. They hero Australiana motifs inspired by ornamental architectural details of colonial terrace houses, with obscure constructs of The Outback.
‘Through observations in my own neighbourhood, I started to notice things that reflected the flora and fauna that would have been abundant prior to European settlement, which was still apparent on stained glass in old Victorian homes,’ tells the 28-year-old creative. ‘These motifs capture a time when Melbourne was bushland not bitumen and plane trees… The legacy of these pre-settlement landscapes is symbolic of the emergence of a new colonial identity.’
Having focussed on the landscapes of regional Australia for several years, Maddison has exhibited extensively throughout Melbourne and wider Victoria in 2016 and 2017. After graduating with a BA Design (Communication Design) from RMIT University, he has also gone on to found Daisylegs, a graphic design and mural painting practice, with his friend Jamie Edward.
This week, the artist is excited to finally see his work hung within its urban setting, and to see the response from passers-by. After the show, Maddison’s got his sights set on further exploration of this subject matter – namely, the ways in which the Australian landscape is constantly ‘commercialised and celebrated while also being erased’ (look no further than the Adani coal mine in the Carmichael Basin).
The painter is also interested in studying the use of Australian flora and fauna motifs in branding and business via his project Corporate Koala. ‘The biggest challenge, for me, has been unlearning preconceptions about the Australian landscape,’ he tells. ‘This will be an ongoing process of self-education.’