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James Guppy at MAY SPACE

What is left behind, 2019

In the Northern Rivers fires are very much a part of life here… bushfires, the canefields, the winter burnoffs.

A few years back we burnt a few big camphor laurel stumps that had been felled many years ago to make way for orchards and gardens. As we kept a watchful eye on the fire… we took photos. The flames, smoke and slow charcoaling of the wood were mesmerising.

The photographs looked like alien landscapes; strange and evocative of some other place. It was their ambiguity; the images were of burnt root balls but the scale was confusing and also suggested monumental landscapes. I began to see other worlds in them with looming mountains and far off in the distance minute trails that inhabitants might travel through.

Such strange and elusive forms became an exercise in possibilities: the charred branches were also spinal vertebrae, the ashen root balls… crustaceans and wild boars.

I began to play with the other things hidden in the smoke and fire. There were mysteries, old mythologies and living things amongst the flames half glimpsed, intuited. Stories began to evolve as I painted.

The world seemed to be echoing the stories as I worked… historic heat waves, mass extinctions and migrations, predictions of chaos and doom reducing us to scrabbled existences in destroyed lands.Each of these paintings began with the burn we did on that winter’s day.

The stories that grew in them… mark the legacy we leave behind us. – James Guppy 2019



Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am to 5pm
Sundays, 12pm to 4pm

Wednesday 16 October to Sunday 3 November 2019

Opening drinks: 3-5pm, Saturday 19th October 2019


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