The template familiarity of urban spaces isn’t something I overtly notice, but it is something I feel when moving through these cities and towns; familiar paving patterns, similar plant species, the even spacing between trees, the predictable levels of light and shade. Colours and colour combinations also often seem all too familiar – a universal urbanism in which space is arranged in a few commercially purchasable designs.

The topic of the homogenisation of urban and architectural spaces is a current topic of academic research. In May 2018 Sonia Curnier published a thesis with EPFL analysing homogenisation trends of public places in Europe, lending great insight into the aesthetics of repeatable space. Far from being confined to the public realm, space-predictability is also being played out in commercial, public and private architecture. Looking up at the small black and white James Turrell prints on my entrance wall it occurred to me that if urban and architectural spaces were becoming familiar, then perhaps this is influencing both the shapes, colours, texture and forms that artists are producing as well as the type of work people are attracted to (and by extension, also buying and collecting).

As our world divides in discrete, compact units without consideration for the impact that urban and architectural repeat-ism has on the whole, are our art-forms also narrowing? For further reading, check out this article by geo41 ‘Homogenisation of Landscapes’.

Image credit:  geo41

Image credit: geo41

urban reality

Concrete is dense, vast and ubiquitous. The material has historically been used in many ways and has such a loaded and varied vocabulary that allows it to be transformed in many ways. I’m currently working with concrete breeze blocks to interrogate through structure, form, light and shadow, the commingling of human and non-human narratives that occurs in our post-natural (the intentional and heritable alteration of nature by humans) contemporary urban reality.

Breeze blocks were an architectural feature commonly used in commercial and residential construction in the 1950s and 60s. Contemporary symbols of suburbia, they are a hallmark of the social and cultural expansion of post-war Victoria. Often used as decorative wall detailing, breeze blocks mark the division of spaces in places such as internal and external boundary walls, as patio screens and carports. As a partially solid construction material, breeze blocks have a unique duality that emphasises solidity and permeability as well as division. This duality makes breeze blocks an ideal material to interrogate the commingling of human and non-human narratives.

This week I also saw the announcement of CONCRETE: art design architecture, an exhibition at JamFactory, Adelaide that looks at the material and conceptual poeticism of the material. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this exhibition. More info at the JamFactory website

Durbach Block Jaggers, Tamarama House, 2015. Photo: Tom Ferguson. Via  Art Guide Australia .

Durbach Block Jaggers, Tamarama House, 2015. Photo: Tom Ferguson. Via Art Guide Australia.