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CATALOGUE ESSAY

Simon Finn: Contrary Forces

 

Simon Finn’s practice has always oscillated between zones of sheer beauty and utter entropy. For a time, the ocean was a central motif. An avid deep-sea diver, he would use a conglomeration of drawing, sculpture and animation to capture the sublime beauty of the waves. But alongside the beauty of the tides came the sheer physical brutality of their power and, as sea levels rise, Finn would depict the destructive forces that inevitably accompany that sublime potency.

 

A draughtsman par excellence, Finn has recently settled in a remote corner of Victoria’s majestic Otway ranges, a vast swathe of temperate rainforests, majestic waterfalls and rugged coastlines and his pencil has drawn him into the spectacular labyrinth and the cathedral-like naves of the Otway’s forests. In his ‘Trees’ works the byzantine complexities of mother nature rule supreme. Each limb and each leaf bustle over the picture-plane. Sans colour, one immediately senses the dark greens and dark ochres of the landscape and practically smell the heady scent of eucalypt in the air.

 

But, as with his ocean works, there is always a Yin to Finn’s Yang, for in an accompanying body of work the once majestically vertical arbour has been reduced to a denuded wasteland, a silent graveyard. The Otway’s were once home to some of the largest hardwood trees on the planet. However, much of the original forest on the higher parts of the range have been cleared and replaced with cleared farmland and pine plantations. Most of the remaining native forest has been subjected to logging at some stage. As is humanities’ wont, the cathedral has been made into a crypt, and where lyre-birds once sang, an eerie silence exudes from these works.

 

Finn eschews making grand environmental proclamations. “My studio practice generates artworks that are an exploration of temporal representations and the variable syntheses between artist, environment and technology,” he says. “The works investigate the boundaries of sight, experience and scientific visualisation by de-centring the human in networks of artistic production.”

 

However. the works speak for themselves and Finn’s sheer skill resonates with an all too rare passion and poignancy. Writing on Finn’s earlier work, fellow artist Bernhard Sachs commented that: “The tone of Finn’s dark world is catastrophic, fixated on entropy and images of demise, of the watchtower, the alarm, and the vengeance of the infinite — the tsunami, the flood, of an antagonistic Nature carrying everything before it. The persistent content is one of the optics of emergency.”

 

However, Finn’s trees, at least when still vertical, suggest the other extreme; a sublime tranquillity that exudes at least some sense of hope.

 

Finn’s recent group exhibitions include ‘Vertigo,’ Galeri Soemardja, Indonesia, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taiwan and POSCO Art Museum, South Korea, 2014; ‘Surge’ at Plymouth College of Art, England, 2014 and ‘Down to the Line,’ Bett Gallery, Tasmania 2013. He was a finalist in the Linden Art Prize, 2014; Substation Art Prize, 2013; Paul Guest Drawing Prize, 2012; Dobell Drawing Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2011and winner of the NotFair Howard Arkley Award and the Kedumba Drawing Award, 2012.

 

Dr. Ashley Crawford