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When you come from a climate where the temperature hits a high of 23° in Summer, sub-tropical Queensland looks like Paradise: all year the vegetation is lush and green and the sky clear and blue. If you visit a rainforest and shut out a few facts like there aren't many left and they've probably been sold overseas anyway, you can kid yourself you've just discovered the world, and that Paradise can and does exist. Funny how we always see the best-of-all-possible- worlds as people-free. In the culture vs nature debate, nature minus culture seems to equal perfection.
Jim Brodie, immigrant artist from Canada is, however, not' quite so naive. Whilst at first glance the rainforest prints in his recent exhibition at the Royal Queensland Art Society might appear to be a celebration of unbridled nature, Brodie's technical processes call attention to themselves at every turn, so that the overlay of culture on nature is unmistakeable. A set of photographic prints of rainforest are overlaid with ink in such a way as to de-naturalise them The composition has the viewer looking first into the picture frame, then throught a photographically selected "natural" frame, into the forest. Thus, composition echoes the technology of printing - the "rainforest" itself an ideal which cannot be reached.
Two large matched works have been selectively drawn by Brodie from photographs on Japanese paper, which catches the eye and demands attention. The fanciful viewer who sees the effects as dappled light or raindrops ignores the deconstructive function of Brodie's use of technology.
In Bird in the Hand I and 11 Brodie's irony is evident: literally depicted here is the intervention of culture in nature. Both images contain poignant ambiguities. They comprise lush tropical vegetation with a montage of a quartet of birds - in hand. In I, Warhol-like, the repeated images are nearly identical. The bird is present as absence- mere negative space; it may just have alighted, or be about to leave. In 11, the brilliant colouring of the birds is robbed of warmth by a ground of silver, giving an alienating, metallic effect. The hands in this one change : the lower set are parallel to the base line; but the upper set recede from the viewer: with the intervention of man, nature is vanishing.
Beachscape I, 11, and Ill confirm the ironical vision and, perhaps, extend it into cynicism . At least fifteen overlays of colour flatten out the image in these photographic screenprints, and reduce the human element to stylised, motionless shapes. Even the sea seems motionless and movement appears to have become the exclusive property of the objects in the pictures: the flags, the protozoic beach umbrella and, in III, the hang glider, which looms like a pterydactyl reminding us of our primordial past.
The heavy black framing of the Beachscapes emphasises the technological processes that Brodie as artist has imposed on nature as sub-ject. Finally, these works make a case for a more complex re-assessment of the nature culture debate, challenging the "purity" of nature, the role of "man" in nature, and suggesting the ascendency of the world of objects over both man and nature.