Spalding’s paintings immerse viewers in the windswept and weather-beaten landscape of the Snowy Mountains, as dense mist and snow give way to twisted gums and scrub.
Fascinated with capturing Australia’s mountain landscape as he experiences it, Spalding feels the landscape through his paintings. Up on the worn peaks of our ancient mountain ranges, he observes the intense colours of high altitudes through the sharp, clear light of the mountain air.
After the devastating fires which burnt through the Kosciuszko region in 2003, Spalding began collecting the charcoal remnants of trees and using these to draw the burnt scenes before him. Since then, Spalding has incorporated natural elements from the land for his rendering of it, hand-grinding rocks to extract grey, brown and red ochres, and collecting sticks and leaves to furrow incisions in the paint.
There is a pleasing circularity to Spalding’s exploration of the landscape, as the pigments come to represent the land of their origin, and by cutting through thick layers of paint Spalding revisits the drawings at the heart of his works. This becomes a tactile link back to sketches made whilst out experiencing the land.
Through his large scale works, Spalding envelopes viewers in the wild beauty of Lake Jindabyne and the Kosciuszko ranges by drawing us into his sense of place.
The exclamatory exhibition title Gesundheit, or ‘to your health,’ heralds each sneeze provoked by the process of binding natural pigments with gum turpentine and linseed oil, and wittily reflects the experiential nature of Spalding’s approach to his subject. After living in Austria for a number of years and returning to Australia with his Austrian wife, Spalding feels a strong connection with the German language. Beyond the whimsy of its reference the title forms a heartfelt homage to the distinctive qualities of the Australian alpine landscape. As a toast to its sculptural eucalypts, forceful sou’westerly winds and unusual wildlife, this exhibition forges an experiential union between canvas and country.