Nature, viruses inspire new exhibition at Hazelhurst Arts Centre

Two of Australia's most-celebrated contemporary artists will be featured in two new solo exhibitions that will run simultaneously at Hazelhurst Arts Centre from this week.

Melbourne-based artist Christopher Langton and Sydney-based artist Caroline Rothwell have created new works for their immersive solo exhibitions, which open Saturday, June 26.

Christopher Langton's Coloniesis a larger-than-life exhibition which explores life-threatening diseases and infections, while Caroline Rothwell's Horizon considers our relationship with the natural world.

The exhibition marks the first time the two artists have exhibited alongside each other.

Merging the two exhibitions was the brainchild of Hazelhurst curator Carrie Kibbler, who saw similarities in the themes and materiality being explored by the two artists and invited them to develop the exhibitions two years ago.

They were due to open last year, but were delayed due to COVID-19.

Colonies is an immersive installation that explores ideas of space colonisation and organisms, such as bacteria, occupying hosts, while considering issues around our shared ecology.

With obvious reference to science fiction and biology, visitors have the opportunity to be surrounded by asteroids, meteorites and other celestial bodies along with real and imagined organisms in the shape of viruses, bacteria and fungi.

"Colonies was born of a personal experience of a viral infection, but over the last 18 months, through the pandemic, it's metastasised to something more universal," Langton said.

"The work magnifies the cellular and there's a sense of cartoonish horror in that scale, but also something appealing.

"I recently read that less than half of our body's cells are actually human; the rest are 'microscopic colonists'. The very least we can do is acknowledge the majority cell count."

Meanwhile, Rothwell's Horizon installation explores the intersection of art and science through sculpture, collaged historical prints and digital animations using carbon emissions that invite viewers to consider our relationship with the natural environment.

"The title comes from the idea of looking to the horizon - looking out from your immediate frame of reference into the infinite," she said.

"You can never see what is beyond the horizon - the horizon looks back and we look forward into the infinite.

"For me it's a kind of hopeful idea as well. You look back along the horizon to consider future possibilities."

She completed a central installation especially for the exhibition. The geometric topographical form is integrated with reconfigured works and found objects she has collected over many years.

The work developed from her interest in looking at the infrastructure of how we exist and the interconnectedness of botanicals with human and industrial systems.

In recent years, she has made regular visits to Kurnell, the site of first encounters between Europeans and First Nations people, for a series of works that looks to the history of the place and its ecology while recognising it as the first site of invasion or colonisation.

Working with several original prints from Joseph Banks' Florilegium series, she used a scalpel to slice into some sections and spliced in watercolour elements.

The resulting works ask viewers to "look to the past, to understand the present, and think about the future".

Visitors to the gallery can explore Hazelhurst's gardens and create their own hybrid 'morphed' plants as part of Rothwell's Infinite Herbarium web app created in collaboration with Google Creative Lab and currently showing at The National, MCA and Royal Botanic Gardens.

Details: Colonies and Horizon will be on showatHazelhurst Arts Centre, Gymea, from June 26 to September 5. The gallery is open daily from 10am-4pm. Entry is free.