Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

The Moral Meaning of Wilderness Exhibition Guide


It is a great honour to present The moral meaning of wilderness, an innovative and critically engaging exhibition of recent work by juan Davila, one of Australia’s leading artists. The exhibition represents a radical shift in Davila’s practice, which makes a significant contribution to recent discourses concerning art’s relationship to nature, politics, identity and subjectivity in our post-industrial age.

Juan Davila was born in Chile in 1946 and moved to Melbourne in 1974. He soon established himself as a significant presence on the Australian and international art scene. His work was the subject of a survey exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery in 2002, a major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 2006 and the National Gallery of victoria in 2007. Davila’s work has featured in a wide range of significant group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including the prestigious Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, in 2007.

In The moral meaning of wilderness Davila pursues his exploration of the role of art as a means of social, cultural and political analysis. While many contemporary artists turned away from representation of the landscape, due to its perceived allegiance to outmoded forms of national identity and representation, Davila has recently sought to revisit and reconsider our surroundings au naturel. His paintings are, at first view, striking representations of nature, at a time when the environment is as much a political as a cultural consideration. With technical virtuosity Davila has produced a body of work that depicts beauty and pictorial emotion while addressing modern society’s ambivalent link to nature and what he regards as increasing consumerism in art today that dulls our capacity to observe nature and reduces our ability to explore our inner selves. The paintings, created since 2003, are undertaken en plein air, a pre-modern technique based on speed of execution in situ, and the use of large scale canvases characteristic of history painting. He has also employed other techniques such as studio painting and representations of the landscape through the sublime, the historical, memory and modernity. They attest to the international reputation he has gained for his innovation in painting.

For the full catalogue text including images:


Text © Kate Briggs

Hard copy of The Moral Meaning of Wilderness Catalogue is also available for purchase

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