Capalaba, in Redland city outside Brisbane, is a quiet place to see Glenda Orr’s Log: Filter-Frame-Forest, a restrained yet revolutionary exhibition. Orr is an artist whose previous careers include some years as a scientist. Her conceptual rigour is evident in her approach, technical expertise and depth of practice across media that includes prints, artist books, and small scale sculpture.
This exhibition is tightly themed around wood: from the macro of trees and logs down to the micro scale of broken and crushed detritus collected with other seeds and natural elements. A collection of axes, titled X-Y Axes, 2015-16, draw the viewer close to examine their detail. These tiny axes are constructed from seeds, wood chips and fragments gathered at the Bimblebox Nature Reserve in western Queensland, set in epoxy resin, and presented in a grid. Together this collection forms a cross that reads in colour like rust: a cemetery-like field that casts larger shadows, to suggest, as Orr said, “death by small cuts.”
The scale of this work is humble, but demands attention, suggesting a focus on the fragility of the earth and environment itself.
Other works digitise trees, imposing grid-lines that sit between our eyes and the printed image, like a filter of our humanity and experience. Bimblebox Sky Map is created with resins taken from trees from nature yet given an alien application as paint. The sawn logs are printed to scale with edges toward the viewer, descriptive of the way we see them on the back of trucks, yet their individuality brands each piece as important. Other prints are created on redundant graph paper. Up close and around the edges, embossed paper shows scale measured in imperial inches and definitions that may suggest looming extinction; trees as relics of past experience.
Experiences at the Royal Brisbane Agricultural Show and the ‘wood chop’ event, word play that engages with the multiple meanings of ‘log’ and vignettes of natural forest and timbers create a push/pull effect on the viewer. Orr’s work within the artist camp environment at the Bimblebox Nature Reserve brings the humility and power of an important yet remote area into the city. Her depiction of dead trees acknowledges their role as habitat, using paint created with natural saps, on a ‘disruptive’ underlay. Straight grid-lines are juxtaposed with natural wandering ones, the clash of nature and humanity writ large.