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Dark Matter is a solo show by artist Julia Davis which explores the effects of time in relation to the body and the material world. In 2013 the artist received an Australia Council for the Arts residency at the British School in Rome, an experience which she describes as pivotal in her career. As she explains, “I’ve always been attracted to really active materials that change, like salt and steel, and the same goes with sites. The project involved climbing the active volcanos south of Rome collecting ash and taking a lot of photographs and video footage.”

Over the course of her three month residency, Davis created work which included video, digital prints on paper and silk, and three-dimensional forms cast from volcanic ash.

When asked if there was a significant moment or experience from her time working with volcanologists and geologists in Rome, the artist recalls the conversations she had with other artists and creatives as incredibly important. “There was a eclectic group of people who had a really diverse range of interests: academics, anthropologists, historians, and we would meet together every night and the discussions we had were really fascinating,” she says. “Unfortunately funding for this program no longer exists and it’s really a disastrous thing for the arts.”

The imagery inspired by volcanos is often violent and turbulent, underpinned by a sense of anxiety: humans are no longer in control, nature takes over. And it is this sense of foreboding and vulnerability which Davis evokes in her work. “What I’ve tried to do is slow time down in the space. There are three works in the room and each work has a latent active quality, but it is still very slow. I’ve always been very interested in the two-fold thing of what we do with materials, and what materials do when they work on us. The work, in a way, is an experiment,” she says. “I’m more interested in what it can do than in what it is.”

Dark Matter, much like the subject it presents, is an ever evolving and changing work, one which the artist feels will continue to develop in the future. Davis hopes audiences will walk away with “a sense of their bodies, of time and heightened materiality. I like the sense of slowing down time.” Something we can all relate to.

Julia Davis: Dark Matter
Manly Art Gallery and Museum
1 July – 4 September

Naomi Gall