Review: Camilla Tadich-Slabalong
SLABALONG. The word is painted on a piece of wood with the Ls turned into arrows pointing off somewhere into the outback night. It’s a funny word, cute even, but there’s no way I’d follow its direction. Beyond the edges of Camilla Tadich’s paintings lurk all the Australian nightmares, from Wake in Fright to Ivan Milat and Wolf Creek.
In her current show at Sophie Gannon gallery, Tadich guides the viewer across the endless space of the Australian continent. Through the vacuous expanse between towns and the impenetrable darkness between days, she plays Virgil to our Dante in an Antipodean circle of Hell. Tadich's nocturnal visions reveal fragmented glimpses of human activity, signs of life but from the fringes of civilisation. This is a liminal world where rusting cars relax into their own eternity while petrol bowsers wait with infinite patience. Where numbers rising from a dry river bed now fathom only darkness. Graffiti scrawled rocks and illegible signposts offer no guidance, even when spot lit by her car’s headlights they remain unilluminating. A phone box glows faintly like a tired beacon in the darkness, communicating whatever it is that passes for hope around here, and when the sun comes out its all just dirt, dry bones and rubble.
Bleak, but fascinatingly so. There’s a stark beauty to this world and Camilla Tadich is not the first to notice it, artists such as Bill Henson, Louise Hearman, Andrew Browne (and if you’ll indulge me, this reviewer) have all felt the gravitational pull of this dark matter. It has the ambiguous attraction of the Sublime and the shadowy intrigue of the Baroque. It is an existential state, the finitude of light in all encompassing blackness and the artists who explore this realm cannot help but confer singular visions.
Tadich has a definite eye for alluring and mysterious sights. The viewer is a passenger on a vicarious and disquieting road trip. Her paintings are individual episodes replete with implied narratives that all portend to end badly, but in the moment shown they are simply beguiling. A dark vein of humour courses through the exhibition, like the funny word Slabalong, but you laugh at it to show that you’re not afraid.
Slabalong is at Sophie Gannon Gallery Albert St Richmond unitl March 27