Ray Arnold : Florentine Valley, Displaced Landscape.

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Ray Arnold : Florentine Valley, Displaced Landscape.


Butler, Roger.


NGA News (Canberra)


Summer 1985-1986.

Publication date

December 1985

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Ray Arnold: Florentine Valley: displaced landscape.1984 The depiction of the Australian landscape has been one of the major preoccupations of European artists since Captain Cook first charted the east coast of Australia. Early images of the Pacific region are predominantly Utopian. In Jean­ Gabriel Charvet's wallpaper panels of 1806 (Gallery 4), for example, handsome natives frolic in a luxurious land of exotic plants and abundant fruit - a veritable Garden of Eden. Ray Arnold's two-part screenprint Florentine Valley: displaced landscape, 1984, is an important extension of this continuing tradition. Arnold, who was born and studied in Melbourne, has always been fascinated by the majestic beauty of mountains. His work in the late 1970s was often based on scenes he saw during walking trips through the Australian Alps in the Kosciusko region and through south-west Tasmania. In 1983, this love of the landscape led him to move to Hobart, which nestles at the foot of the majestic Mount Wellington. Tasmanians have a passionate love of their island’s varied landscape, with its lush green valleys, snow­ capped mountains and impenetrable bush. They trade on the State's physical beauty, mine its resources and tap its rivers for power. Florentine Valley: displaced land scape is on a grand scale, measuring one metre high by three metres long, and represents a variation on the Utopian theme. In the left-hand print the artist surveys a broad expanse of rugged mountain terrain from a road­side tourist look-out. The sun is setting and its golden light flickers across the landscape, catching the crests of hills and mountains. On the right an information board, carrying a painted view of the valley, juts into the composition. This hoarding is enlarged to take up the whole of the print on the right. On it one is able to read details of the geological structure of the valley and the position of the sites of interest. It is at this point that Arnold reveals his intent. The headlights of the artist's car throw his shadow across the information board and draw attention to the site of the Lake Pedder controversy, where conservationists and pro­dam groups confronted each other in the mid-1970s. Arnold is presenting us with two alternatives: a natural landscape of great beauty to be preserved for future generations, or, on the other hand, a landscape scarred by greed. Like Charvet 180 years before Arnold sees the landscape as a natural paradise. But he is also aware that this vision is being encroached upon, that the shadow is falling, the sun setting. Roger Butler Curator Australian Prints