Philip Wolfhagen: Hinterlands


In winter, there is a rolling mist that lingers over the Derwent River, snaking its way from the central highlands of Tasmania to the fringes of the Hobart CBD. It is the famed Bridgewater Jerry, a uniquely Tasmanian weather phenomenon commonly seen in the cooler months. On the mornings it appears, the daylight hours move stiff and tense against the cold, despite this there remains a vibrant crispness.

Tasmanian weather patterns and their seasonal effects on the landscape are subjects Philip Wolfhagen knows well.

Growing up in Longford, a picturesque farming community in northern Tasmania, Wolfhagen has been surrounded by vast spaces and big skies most of his life. His new body of landscape painting, Hinterlands, pays homage to unique aspects of the mountain ranges near his home, particularly the geometry of Jurassic dolerite formations and the clusters of native vegetation peppered amongst them. “Sometimes I make reference to ‘the garden’ in my titles,” he says. “I am always curious about the pursuit of design, or order in chaos, that defines a meaningful composition in nature.”

PhilipWolfhagen2016- Study for Experimental Garden no. 1
Philip Wolfhagen, Study for Experimental Garden no. 1, 2016, oil on board , 28 x 92.5cm.

Working predominantly with oil paint, Wolfhagen is a master of depicting light amongst the landscape, the kind that hovers between rustling gum trees at sunrise and filters delicately through wood smoke.

This particular skill was arguably the standout feature of Transitory Light 2017, the painting that won Wolfhagen the Lloyd Rees Art Prize earlier this year. Showing a renewed interest in alpine landscapes and a subsequent refinement of palette, Hinterlands highlights Wolfhagen’s good repute amongst Australia’s painters.

Influenced by Baroque painter Claude Lorrain’s hallmark compositions featuring “dark tree-forms framing distant views”, the paintings in Hinterlands, says Wolfhagen “employ a lot of graphic marks and hark back to my love of drawing, but are also about light and contain highly developed cloudscapes, all to heighten the drama of the experience of nature.”

PhilipWolfhagen2017 - Fourth Transect
Philip Wolfhagen, Fourth Transect, 2017, oil and beeswax on linen, 87 x 285cm.


Philip Wolfhagen
Bett Gallery
13 October – 30 October

Preview Words by Briony Downes