Review

Jamie North: Rock Melt

13 August 2015

Flooded with bright daylight and wide open spaces, Jamie North’s new installation piece couldn’t be more at home than in the National Gallery of Victoria. Taking the place of the ornate Golden Mirror Carousel by Carsten Höller, this newest addition is by far the most mysterious of a series of sculptural works commissioned for the gallery’s Federation Court.

This bold exhibition of six large pillars by the Sydney-based artist merges crawling vines with architectural design to create an apocalyptic ambience of decay, ruin, and the regeneration that follows. At five metres tall each sculptural column ascends from a solid concrete base to a corroded peak. As the pillars stretch upward, what starts as a manmade creation is eventually overtaken by nature.

Karl Marx’s quote “All that is solid melts into air” is a prominent conceptual influence for many reasons. In Rock Melt, the combined deliberate composition of recycled steel, cement and slag* and overarching theme of disintegration articulates in North’s work a foundation in Marxist philosophy.

North’s affinity for the cultivation of plants and observation of the natural environment is evident in this work. He draws his inspiration from native flora, using here the Australian Wonga Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana). Conversely North also admires the aesthetics of industrial and mining materials, such as waste and minerals. From a distance it appears as though gravity doesn’t hold together the fragments of each pillar but rather suspends its parts in mid-air, as time and everybody in it seemingly stand still. Up close, North manages to replicate the random growth of plant life that is so customary of cracks in buildings and concrete pavements, representing the unlikely convergence of nature with structure.

Modern, innovative and remarkably distinctive, North‘s Rock Melt critically analyses the collision of two worlds. Over the course of the exhibition, it is the artist’s intention for the vines to grow and spread, and eventually take over the underlying concrete jungle. Rock Melt explores the hardly symbiotic relationship between manifestations of earth and architecture, perhaps challenging the ability of the two to ever truly coexist.

*Slag – No, it’s not what you think. Slag is a by-product of steel production.

Rock Melt is presented as part of NGV’s ongoing series of Federation Court commissions.

27th March – 13th July 2015 at NGV International (Ground Floor). Free Entry. 

Image credit: Alpha (Flickr) / CC

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