The spirit of Emily Kam Kngwarray’s Country
A comprehensive new survey at the National Gallery of Australia pays tribute to Emily Kam Kngwarray and the Country she loved.
Using recycled materials like the bouncy rubber crumb found on playgrounds and aged wood reclaimed from the depths of Tasmanian dams, Colin Langridge has maintained his unique sculptural practice for close to 20 years. Trained in the historical method of coopering, a construction technique traditionally used by boat builders and wooden barrel makers where wood is heated to allow maximum pliability, Langridge is known for creating flawlessly curved sculptures embracing the familiar and unfamiliar, the manufactured and the organic.
In Something Else, Langridge responds to the global environmental crisis with a series of large-scale wooden sculptures resembling household objects and firefighting tools. Initially constructed by Langridge as “an ironic gesture to express my feeling of helplessness in the face of global climate change”, in the aftermath of the devastating summer bushfires recently experienced in Australia, these wooden objects now hold additional potency as symbols of our precarious and unpredictable future.
Crafted from Celery Top Pine and the sustainable hardwood of Jelutong, Langridge’s objects are not functional items used for safety but significant fire hazards if placed in a flammable environment. Riffing on ideas relating to fire and pressurised tools, Langridge’s forms also question the contradictory relationship between meaning and being. “A wooden fire extinguisher is neither a fire extinguisher nor is it simply a collection of shaped pieces of wood,” he says. “It vacillates between these things, and that subtle movement of thought opens up possibilities for poetic interpretation.”
Conceptually informed by the philosophies of Martin Heidegger, Langridge’s affinity for upsized singular objects stems from his childhood growing up in the Pilbara, WA. Regularly observing the giant industrial machines processing iron ore, Langridge was drawn to their functional yet mysterious mechanical parts.
Through the objects he now makes, Langridge seeks to ignite a similar sense of wonder and curiosity in the viewer while also posing bigger questions relating to everyday life.
16 June–29 June
This article was originally published in our March/April 2020 print edition.
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