Last year, British-Australian painter Neil Haddon took home the $100,000 Hadley’s Art Prize for The Visit, 2018. An apocalyptic landscape, viscerally layered and with sharply jutting angles; a focal point of Haddon’s painting was an image of science-fiction author H.G. Wells cycling across uneven terrain. A visual contemplation on Haddon’s migration to Tasmania and Wells’s late 19th century novel War of the Worlds, The Visit serves as the starting point for Haddon’s new body of work.
Expanding on the ideas behind The Visit, Haddon’s exhibition The shore, the race, the other place explores the migrant sense of dislocation, stemming from the tendency to exist in two places at once. It is a state of being that has punctuated much of Haddon’s life. Born and raised in Epsom in southwest London, Haddon moved to Tasmania via Spain in 1996. To visually demonstrate the physical and mental dislocation of being a British migrant living in Australia, Haddon uses collage to place images from literature and art history onto landscapes. “All migrants experience displacement,” says Haddon. “This physical displacement is accompanied by a mental one when the thoughts, feelings and associations attached to one place are removed to another new place.”
In paintings like Our Rocky Shore, 2019, Haddon blends the soft textures of clouds with contrasting colours, creating a surface crackling with orange hues and the veined branches of trees. Illustrative references to the engravings of Gustave Doré and the landscapes of John Glover further knit together the artist’s impression of living on disparate shores. Often painting directly onto the surface of aluminium, Haddon’s application of paint wavers between slick geometric planes and the loose symmetrical daubs of a Rorschach test – a fitting visual symbol of the conflicting experience of duality.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.