Annika Harding paints through the fog

The Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland drink up some of the highest rainfall in Australia, sustaining lively rainforest ecosystems and waterways. Annika Harding’s latest work explores the tension between the natural beauty of the area, relentless meteorological forces, and the built environment that supports local agricultural communities.

“This tension alludes to and contains traces of many stories held by this place,” she explains of the Tablelands. “From its unjust and sometimes violent settlement and the ongoing relationship of the Ngadjon-Jii and other traditional owners with their Country, to the many industries and groups of settlers that have also shaped this place.”

Having recently relocated to the area, Harding’s insightful and sensitive paintings are quiet meditations on place. She applies thin layers of acrylic on carefully selected timber offcuts, sourced locally and sustainably. “I match the size, shape, and grain of the piece of timber to the subject matter. The landscape and my experience of it emerges as I paint each layer.” In Disturbances 1-3, the wood’s concentric grain pulls you inward, complementing the focal point in each painting.

Annika Harding, Mist with bunya pines and native raspberries, 2022, acrylic on timber board, 20 x 25.5 cm. Image courtesy the Artist.

With scrupulous detail, Harding paints intricate scenes on timber as small as a child’s hand. In Misty Farm 1, a petite six by seven centimeters, lichen overcomes a degrading fence post. This fascinates Harding, who says, “The humid rainforest environment encroaches upon and degrades everything from farm infrastructure to road signs.”

But there is also something calming about the dampness. “Fog and mist shroud everything most nights,” she says. “It changes your perception of the landscape, and can make everything feel quiet and calm, melancholy or even exhilarating.” In these new works, Harding reveals silent tensions of the Atherton Tablelands in tiny, moody compositions that demand intimacy.

Flux and Fog: Landscapes of the Atherton Tablelands
Annika Harding
NorthSite Contemporary Arts
13 April—1 June

This article was originally published in the March/April 2024 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Anita King