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hood: troy ruffels
Winter in Tasmania has many facades. In less than fifteen minutes the weather can reveal the tumultuous clouds of an icy southern storm and mimic the brilliant sunshine of an Edenic paradise. Five minutes later, the air threatens to snap into a swirling white symphony of frosty jewels. Fleeting moments of every season filter through each day as winter dances an unpredictable tango of rain, sleet and sunshine. Silvery grey smoke from a multitude of roaring wood fires settles over Hobart when the air is still, while the city's silent sentinel, Mt Wellington, endures another onslaught of snow. A lonely wind whistles its lament through the bare branches of trees that flank the shores of the white capped Derwent River and twilight is bathed in a faint pink light, heralding the advance of a bitter darkness waiting to embrace the city with needle-like fingers that slip through every street and crack in the pavement. Merciless and tempestuous, the forceful changeability of winter in Tasmania possesses a haunting beauty and luminous reverence unique to the isolated island. The collection of images in Hood evoked the essence of winter. In this exhibition of recent work, Tray Ruffels offered a graceful insight into the majestic splendour of the sublime Tasmanian landscape . Observing and photographing the patterns and reflections of the surrounding environment as it was mirrored in the glossy surface of a car bonnet, Ruffels utilised this technique to illuminate the fine details of nature. From the ghostly silhouettes of spiny trees to the pastel brilliance of a sunrise, the photographs were reproduced as a series of large scale ink jet prints on canvas. The result was a sophisticated blend of natural beauty and digital artistry. Separated into four groups of prints, Hood wound round the gallery walls like a fragmented tale of four seasons in one day. Wrapped seductively around its wooden backing, each canvas in the works Untitled 1-12 seemed to shiver with expectation and vibrancy. Mysterious and infused with shadows, the images were blurred and out of focus, implying only a subtle suggestion of form. Trees, fence posts, clouds and dewy puddles assumed the smudged eeriness of a backdrop for the X-Files when tinged with mossy green, violet and a slick of tangerine. The rich warmth and lustrous depth of the unnerving colours was at once both elegant and overwhelming in intensity. Bonnet 1, a sequence of nine panels, was an arresting arrangement of tree branches washed in a vivid hot pink rinse. Sparkling like fool's gold in the strong light of the gallery, the twisting branches resembled rosy tufts of fairy-floss and the ticklish spikes of a feather boa. As Hood's most innovative work, bonnet 1 transformed a familiar sight into a disturbing collage of dappled sunburnt prints, successfully producing a fresh vision of nature through representation in a digital medium. Similar to the dusky prints of Untitled 1-12, the Hood series embodied the magnified, impressionistic scenes of upended trees, drifting sunsets and wavering powerlines that echoed the tall reeds found in still lilac waters. Hints of pale blue, fuzzy peach and pearlescent creams rippled over the surface of the canvas in an appealing palette of mellow hues as the images emerged like the view before our eyes as we wake from dreamy slumber. Location Ill, was an intriguing shift away from the previous introspective reflections of land and sky. More like a barren moonscape than the patterns made by rain pounding into the undulating swell of harbour waters, Location Ill was spread over an entire wall in a mass of 160 small panels. Disjointed yet orderly, the compact prints disclosed the differing movements of water sprinkled with desolate greys and pin pricks of deep blood red. The enormity of the engulfing work jarringly contrasted with the smooth subtly of works like the Hood series, leaving Location Ill to appear as an unknown territory; a terrestrial terrain of watery dimples and pointed peaks. An aesthetically pleasing stroll through the highs and lows of the Tasmanian winter landscape, Hood was a poignant homage to the intricacy, beauty and simplicity of an unpredictable natural environment rendered through the digital lens.