In contemplating the nature of my home in the Blue Mountains, I realised that the local culture and community is built upon a rich history of tourism and travellers. Those people who stop momentarily to explore a place that is unfamiliar to them, yet so familiar to me.
As the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I noticed this sense of culture and community shift; lookouts were emptied, streets were abandoned and train stations were silent.
Inspired by the minimalistic, distinctive and reduced works of Jeffrey Smart, David Hockney and Eliza Gosse, I painted three Blue Mountains’ hotels from my own photographs. I aspired to shed light on the suburban and industrial architectural landscapes of the Blue Mountains using a limited colour palette and simple reduction.
The absence of humanity in all three paintings and the deserted hotels are a recurring symbol of isolation and also convey a sense of otherness that is often associated with visiting foreign places. The exclusion of textual elements from each painting further emphasises this sense of vacancy and contributes to the reduced structural form.
The paintings also embody a certain continuity within the European history of the area: the tourists are a variable—they come and go, but the buildings will always be there.
The series of digitally manipulated photos that are paired with my paintings add a human factor to my Body of Work, and juxtapose the otherwise remote compositions. Through capturing lookouts and train stations overflowing with a diverse range of travellers, and then recording the same locations emptied of human figures, I hope to provide an insight into the changing nature of tourism over time.
This concept is reiterated in the title, Vacancy, alluding to both the rarely seen desertion of these tourist destinations as well as conceptually to the ‘vacancy’ signs at hotels. The black and white prints with colour highlights added from the muted palette used in my paintings, draw the audience’s eye to key elements of each photograph and create a continuity between the two forms. The layout of the photographs acts as a sort of ‘puzzle’, with the content holding the viewer’s eye.
The use of my own digitalised handwriting aims to reference the style of old photographs as well as to provide a personal connection to each photo.