Dodd’s and Walker’s work share visual similarities, particularly in their abstract use of colour and the way their respective passions of cycling and surfing are incorporated into their art. The artists are distinct in their use of media and approaches to creation but come together in a collaborative sculpture, entitled Barnacle Bills Shed Reef, that sparks excitement for future projects between the pair.

Dodd’s acrylic paintings explore the tension between the vibrancy of colours and stillness of meditation. The broad colour palettes evoke an emotional response: the calm of an evening ocean in Blues Meditation; the jolt of lime green in Envy Meditation; or the invigoration of the progression from electric blue to baby pink in Psychedelic French Meditation.

The meditative nature of each piece is enhanced by subtle, circular applications of paint across the canvas – the visual representation of a meditative hum. Dodd’s use of a mechanical device allows for satisfying replication of the rhythm of circles, and this feeling of precision is heightened by the inclusion of paint splashes and bleeding colours elsewhere on the canvas – imperfect nuances that reflect the wildness of the colours.

Details such as brush strokes, shimmers of metallic paint or slivers of unpainted canvas can only be seen up close, but standing back from these pieces gives a contrasting perspective that invokes imagery of meditative landscapes in the natural world.

James Dodd’s acrylic paintings evoke an emotional response. Photo: Sam Roberts

Walker’s sewn collages, made from pre-loved Neoprene wetsuits, are abstracted depictions of natural and man-made elements of the Australian outdoors. Titles such as Blue Esky, Left Arm in Beach Towel or Hi Vis on Hills Hoist offer a pragmatic, quirky charm.

Structure and tone in Walker’s pieces are cleverly drawn from the characteristics of his materials. The stitching on the wetsuits, easily visualised hugging the human body, are used to give shape to works of a single colour, such as Dune, which is constructed primarily of beige Neoprene.

Walker plays with the contrasts between the colours of his found wetsuit material. The neon highlighter yellow in Trevor Hendy Spring is made appealing by its juxtaposition with squares and rectangles of dark red and black. The title is a nod to former Australian surf lifesaver Trevor Hendy and, fittingly, Walker uses a portion of the wetsuit imprinted with the logo of a well-known Australian surfing brand.

Water People (Murwillumbah), made entirely of blue Neoprene, suggests a figure through contrasting shades of blue and the way different shapes of material are stitched together. The blue of the figure immersed in the blue background suggests a disintegration of boundaries between people and nature, between the synthetic material of a wetsuit and the weather elements it protects us from – a low pressure system being one that produces cyclonic storms.

Henry Jock Walker’s collages are made from pre-loved Neoprene wetsuits. Photo: Sam Roberts

The artists’ collaborative sculpture unfolds from the entrance of the gallery through the middle of the space, ushering visitors in. This structure’s skeleton is made of wood and steel and is decorated with materials that might be found in a garage: a piece of corrugated iron, a plastic tennis racquet and zip-ties. The artists add colours to each element, playfully bringing these mundane materials to life.

While the sculpture appears raw in construction and randomly assembled, its materials are positioned precisely, the wood, plastic and metal counterbalanced to allow the structure to stand. Concepts of pressure and weight are challenged in every element, whether it be in an irregular, white cube made of light polystyrene placed on top of a heavy, yellow steel rod with holes – titled Soft Serve on Swiss – or as one end of the large structure that rests upon the point of a steel star picket.

This experimental piece represents the early stages of collaboration between Dodd and Walker. Its dynamic, playful nature reflects the shared creative ideal evident throughout the exhibition, while acknowledging the artists’ relationship to each other: inspiration and collaboration under low pressure.

Low Pressure System installation view, with the artists’ collaborative sculpture in the centre. Photo: Sam Roberts

Low Pressure System is at the Hugo Michell Gallery until August 28.

Michelle Wakim is the first recipient of the Helpmann Academy InReview Mentorship. She is working with experienced writers Samela Harris (theatre) and Katherine Tamiko Arguile (visual arts) to write a series of articles for publication in InReview.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Support local arts journalism

InReview is a ground-breaking publication providing local and professional coverage of the arts in South Australia. Your tax-deductible donation will go directly to support this independent, not-for-profit, arts journalism and critique.

Donate Here

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.