David Krut Projects is delighted to present the first solo show of drawings by Michael Amery. The show opens on Saturday 16 April, with an event beginning 11am, and runs until 28 May.
As a freelancer in the advertising industry, Amery is no stranger to consumer culture. In this exhibition he tackles the effect of consumer culture on the natural world via a collection of accomplished drawings in charcoal and India ink.
At first glance, many of Amery’s drawings appear to be reflections on time spent in nature – long views of rolling woodland hills, or close-ups of patterned tree bark and the decorative effect of leaves. And in one way, this is exactly what the works are – drawings inspired by Amery’s regular walks in the forest. However, upon consideration, the tranquillity of the works gives way to something more mechanical, and the unsettling realisation sets in that all may not be as it seems.
All the works in this series are depictions of alien plantations. Amery finds these trees beautiful, and when walking amongst them, feels like he is experiencing nature. However, in a South African context, pine and gum trees are in fact quite unnatural. Their presence is a result of industry alone, and yet they are everywhere. When compared with indigenous forests, man-made forests seem lifeless: they are quieter, the trees are exactly and evenly spaced, and they have a thick dead forest floor where indigenous vegetation struggles to grow.
Formally, the techniques that Amery uses in creating the works mimic techniques and systems of industry imposed on the natural world. Symmetry, repetition, calculation: the carving up of the landscape. Amery exposes the mechanisms of creation – in some works, the grid used to transfer the image is visible, as a result of folding the paper and allowing the charcoal to collect in the creases as he works. The predetermined pyramidal composition of High Renaissance painting that Amery employs is often revealed and emphasised, the image sliced up and rearranged according to Amery’s will. Sometimes the sky imposes on an area where forest should appear, and clearly demarcated stands of trees close in on an exact mathematical vanishing point.
In other works, the one side of the drawing is an meticulous mirror image of the other, recalling Edweard Muybridge’s early photographic experimentation with ideas of copy/paste cloning, which are so common in the age of Photoshop. The mirror image, as well as the endless multiplication of almost identical trees ad infinitum produces a subtle comment on the impact of the multiplication of our own species. The quiet in the forest is conjured in Amery’s drawings, but the underbelly of the peaceful calm is the danger that monocultures present to the biodiversity that is essential in supporting food production and fresh water in the face of ever-shrinking terrestrial and aquatic resources. The serenity of the natural scenes belies the complexity of their interrogation of consumer culture and its impact on the landscape.