The Art Gallery of South Australia present Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe, an exhibition showcasing the work of James Darling and Lesley Forwood, conceptual artists who engage with social, political and environment discourses through their simultaneously monumental and ephemeral installations. Sculpture meets moving image and sound as water floods the cavernous exhibition space, a historic stone salt storehouse. From an extensive pool emerges thrombolites that have been crafted, not by nature, by Darling and Forwood who employ the distinctive roots of an arid land eucalyptus to create ‘living rocks’. Surrounding the water are images made in collaboration with Jumpgate VR. Constantly in motion, the images are accompanied by String Quartet No. 2 composed by Paul Stanhope and performed by the Australian String Quartet. The work was first shown at Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide, where the artists have shown their work since 2010.
Living Rocks was inspired by a lake containing rare, rock-like thrombolites, which are microbial structures that grow in shallow pools and release oxygen. These microbialites have colonised lake floors over the course of billions of years and supplied the first large quantities of oxygen to the Earth’s atmosphere. The mallee roots from the Eucalyptus plant are intricately arranged into an imposing geometric structures that reflect upon ideas of form, nature and evolution. The art of Darling and Forwood incorporates art and science in a daring multidisciplinary project that puts thrombolites at the centre of attention.
Within curator Ralph Rugoff’s theme May We Live in Interesting Times, the installation links the present to the beginning of life and brings to the fore the fragility of our planet. In a statement by James Darling, the artist said, “This exhibition is about conception, where fragments and the imagination reside. Living Rocks celebrates the presence of thrombolites. It celebrates microbial life. Looking back and looking forward, the concept of microbialites as the ‘disaster-recovery’ or default ecosystem of our planet, and perhaps of many others, speaks of genesis and genius. At its core, Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe is a memory of our origin and a prophecy of our future.”
Darling and Forwood are radical farmers and environmentalists from south-eastern Australia. They are also radical thinkers. When government policy demanded clearance of native vegetation for agricultural land, they responded by conserving the roots of the mallee gum to make art. Since the 1990’s they have been making large installations that dramatically celebrate the whorl and the helix of the roots and the arid land eucalpyt.
As Director Rhana Davenport ONZM states, “Not only is Living Rocks by James Darling and Lesley Forwood one of a number of international art events selected as official collateral events, is it the only Australian collateral project selected. This means that South Australia will have a very strong presence at the world’s most significant art event, and it will have its very own presence in the astonishing Magazzini del Sale. The Art Gallery of South Australia is honoured to be the official promoter of this event.”
“This is a major creative milestone for the state,” says Premier Steven Marshall, “and a stunning demonstration of what is possible when partnerships emerge between the public and private sectors. The project also proves the power of creative collaboration – leading artists Darling and Forwood are working alongside tech innovators Jumpgate VR and nationally esteemed musicians Australian String Quartet.”
This project has been achieved in collaboration with Australian String Quartet, JumpGate VR, Art&Sale, Bucintoro Venezia and Distinctive Gardens. The work featured in the exhibition was first shown at Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide, where the artists have shown their work since 2010.