James Ettelson’s new series of large-scale acrylic works extend his ongoing interrogation of contemporary urban life via a focus on the fragile intersections of nature and culture. The paintings draw from the artist’s Instagram alter ego ‘Garden Crashers’, a photographic account dedicated to his long-time obsession with gardens. Working from his own photos taken around Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Darling Point, Scott’s Head and the Byron Bay region, the artist captures the restorative power of gardens in a world increasingly pivoted on technological – as opposed to natural – landscapes. Rather than focusing on sublime settings, Ettelson considers the power of ostensibly insignificant everyday landscapes as petit respites from the ‘claustrophobia’ of modern cities.
The paintings in ‘Garden Crashers’ mark a formal refinement of Ettelson’s meticulous style. His carefully articulated tapestry of truncated lines, kaleidoscopic patterns and pools of psychedelic colour channel the idiosyncrasies of human identity that underlie each garden. Gardens are, after all, physical manifestations of their unseen, unknown occupiers, and it is this interplay between the physical and psychological, culture and nature that Ettelson explores in the works. Plant motifs and organic forms mingle with geometric patterns and synthetic shapes in a dance that seems to pixelate before our very eyes. Here, the works refract the decline of nature in our digital world, encouraging us to remedy our fixation with technologically mediated reality by getting out into the ‘real’ world. This layering of meaning is filtered through a lens of humour via the works’ punned titles, which include Lawn and Order, Laying Down the Lawn and World of Lawn Craft, continuing Ettelson’s satirical assessment of the world.