Across the River is a phrase frequently used in the small remote community of Gunbalanya in Western Arnhemland. Once known as Oenpelli, it is a border town. Only accessible across the infamous Cahill’s Crossing from Kakadu National Park through the Alligator River into Aboriginal owned Arnhem land.
Across the River reflects a three year period when David Wickens lived and worked in Gunbalanya. He made the crossing driving back and forth to Darwin countless times.
But his subject matter here is not the picturesque billabong landscape he experienced driving through Kakadu or the glowing sun drenched Arnhem Land escarpment he saw every evening in his backyard.
He celebrates what could be mistaken as the ordinary or everyday. The invisible ‘ugly’ reality that people look past whilst they consume the clichéd natural splendor.
The Territory is no ordinary place. Nothing that is in it can be ordinary either. Wickens sees beauty in iconic elements that would otherwise be left unnoticed. They don’t fit an outsider’s view of what is special. But instead of shame David feels awe.
There has been no love for this architecture in previous artistic representations the Territory. This is not a gritty dystopian view of the human manifestation of Territorians in the landscape but a love poem to their reality. A pink shed popping out of a cloudy skyline, the shadow cast by an old box aircon, the elevated house catching the sun in a wet season storm or a road that winds through an endless floodplain.
Which side of the river are you standing on? Coming or going? This exhibition explores time spent in and between Gunbalanya and Darwin. The connection between these two drastically different landscapes can be seen through the impact of human industry. This exhibition of paintings aims to capture these iconic moments and celebrate the significant and unique environments we live in and interact with.
Sharing this experience of built and natural environments which becomes a part of us. No matter that others block out or shun that reality which we live. Love me, love my shed.