'DIRT' - Group exhibition

14-October-2023 - 4-November -2023

This exhibition DIRT serves as a metaphorical canvas for land/terrain/place/ground which aims to delve into the profound connection between artists and the earth; the surface that inspires and unites them.

Whether the invited artists draw inspiration from the raw wonder of the natural world, the rich cultural heritage bound within the soil, the ecological complexities of a changing world or the human condition as a response, their contribution to DIRT will be an integral part of a collective conversation about the landscapes we inhabit and the stories they tell.

DIRT  features the following artists:

  • Patrizia Biondi (NSW)

  • Barbara Bolt (WA)

  • Stephen Brameld & Jay Staples (WA)

  • Jenny Gilbertson (WA)

  • Lindsay Harris (WA)

  • Kathryn Haug (WA)

  • Eric Hynynen (WA)

  • Nicholas Imms (DNK)

  • Johnny K (NSW)

  • Lauren Kennedy (WA)

  • Jarrad Martyn (VIC)

  • James Lai (NSW)

  • David Usher (QLD)

What is our relationship to dirt? Dirt is a shape shifter. It is strife. It has a way of insinuating itself into every nook and cranny making and leaving its mark. It gets between our toes and under our fingernails, dirties our faces and sullies our clothes. It is the grit on the floor that drives us mad. Dirt is, it seems, something that needs to be “controlled” and yet dirt makes our world. Dirt is both earth and world – the raw material of our world and the formed matter that is our world. In our everyday understanding, earth or dirt is seen as that amorphous mass upon which, and out of which humans create their world. This is particularly true in a “natural resource” rich country such as Australia. In this instrumentalist understanding of the world, where everything (including humans) is considered as a resource to be used as a means-to-an-end; earth is considered as brute mute matter available to be extracted and moulded by humans into “useful” things for human beings. What then can art do where everything has become a resource? I want to put it another way. Earth is the potential and possibility that enables different worlds to emerge. It is the dynamic and creative force of possibility. This is the dirt of art. The role of the artist is to work dirty to create strife. Here strife is not figured as a destructive force as commonly understood. In art to create strife, is to produce ambiguity and polyvalence to enable us to go beyond ourselves. Strife is to set in motion so that it can remain strife … and there is strife aplenty in this exhibition1 . We encounter strife in the painting of Johnny K. Here a landscape painting made with oil, house paint and aerosol is titled, I love the smell of fresh air. Meanwhile Eric Hynynen has repurposed fairy lights to become blooming flowers in Bloom Again while Stephen Bramfeld and Jay Staples are rolling in mud with acrylic on board. In contrast, Lindsay Harris’ Dirtscape and Lauren Kennedy’s Recording Time just give us dirt in a its grounded and resonating form, as if to say: Is it happening? And here we behold Patrizia Biondi taking one last breath with her extraordinarily fragile assemblage of recovered objects bearing witness to the cataclysmic bushfires of 2019/2020. The fragility of this work talks to Jarrad Martyn’s cry I love a sunburnt country. Here the conversation between artworks offers us a stark reminder of what is at stake for the earth and the world. There is a critical dialogue too between the virtual and the real playing across this exhibition. James Lai’s Paddock trees and vines takes on the quality of textiles while Kathryn Haug’s Paperbark becomes paperbark. Here a painting is not just a painting; it becomes the thing-in-itself as does David Usher’s Bury Me Deep (in the dreams of dirt). The haunting of the virtual emerges when elements in juxtaposition don’t quite stack up, as in Barbara Bolt’s Uncanny Valley. On the other hand, however, Nicholas Imms’ Stacked Form Standing does stack up, but instead plays with our affections and our perceptions – what is figure – what is ground? And so we return to the ground, the earth and to dirt in its more literal sense. In her ceramic works, Jenny Gilbertson shows us that dirt is never mute nor is it merely the substrate for human actions. The pots that we see before us are not merely the work of the artist but have emerged from a complex collaboration with the earth—earth, water, air and fire. She notes that, ‘working with clay is a great leveller. It is never finished until it has passed through its final ordeal by fire.’ This is what art is. An ordeal by fire. It is strife-making.

Dr Barbara Bolt

1 I draw on Martin Heidegger’s discussion of “strife” as the dynamic that is created between world and earth in the creation of the work of art in the essay, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’. See Heidegger, M. Basic Writings, trans. David Farrell Krell, London: Routledge, pp. 139-212.

Download Exhibition Catalogue
'DIRT' - Group exhibition

Represented Artists

Jarrad Martyn

Kathryn Haug

Eric Hynynen

Lindsay Harris

Associated Artists

Johnny K (NSW)

Stephen Brameld & Jay Staples

Patrizia Biondi (NSW)

Guest Artists

  • Barbara Bolt (WA)
  • David Usher (QLD)
  • James Lai (NSW)
  • Jenny Gilbertson (WA)
  • Lauren Kennedy (WA)
  • Nicholas Imms (DNK)


DAVID USHER (QLD) - Bury Me Deep (in the dreams of dirt) DAVID USHER (QLD) - Bury Me Deep (in the dreams of dirt)
ERIC HYNYNEN (WA) - Bloom Again ERIC HYNYNEN (WA) - Bloom Again
JARRAD MARTYN (VIC) - I Love a Sunburnt Country JARRAD MARTYN (VIC) - I Love a Sunburnt Country
JENNY GILBERTSON (WA) - Adobe (window with chilli ristras, agave & cross) JENNY GILBERTSON (WA) - Adobe (window with chilli ristras, agave & cross)
JENNY GILBERTSON (WA) - Arizona dreaming JENNY GILBERTSON (WA) - Arizona dreaming
JENNY GILBERTSON (WA) - Homage to Georgia O'keefe - Black Cross with Stars and Blue JENNY GILBERTSON (WA) - Homage to Georgia O'keefe - Black Cross with Stars and Blue
KATHRYN HAUG (WA) - Paperbark KATHRYN HAUG (WA) - Paperbark
LAUREN KENNEDY (WA) - Recording Time LAUREN KENNEDY (WA) - Recording Time
NICHOLAS IMMS (DNK) - Stacked Form Standing NICHOLAS IMMS (DNK) - Stacked Form Standing
PATRIZIA BIONDI - My Last Breath 1 PATRIZIA BIONDI - My Last Breath 1

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