Wellington-based artist Michael Lowe is recognizable through his unique approach to realism, as depicted in his landscape paintings. Easily mistaken for photographs, Lowe does not strive to portray landscapes ‘as seen by the eye’ but rather ‘as seen through memories’, dragging spectators to non-particular places in New Zealand.
Deprived of humans, his paintings exude a sense of nostalgia and romance. As declared by himself: ‘Although my subject matter may look familiar it most likely isn't. This is the power of realism, a way to transport viewers into an imaginative and constructed setting where they discover a perceived meaning and association to the landscape.’
Lowe was part of the Nomadic Art Gallery's digital exhibition "Alienation". Contextualisation of his work within the exhibition theme:
"Totem, a fantastic example of contemporary romanticism, examines human perception of the landscape in terms of how people find value and sense of connectedness within our natural environment. Through discordant themes of colonialism and land ownership, Lowe makes us question: ‘what is natural?’. The artist combines an understanding of our interactions between past, present and future while delivering an intimate and personal vision of his own.
What we see here is a green mountainous landscape constructed from memories. In the foreground, an electricity pole as beacon of progress and (private/public) demarcation. This intrusive pole dominates the landscape and doesn't seem consistent with our romantic idea of what nature should be.
As a mix of the three primary colours, Totem juggles between the natural world and the built environment, from the world untouched by human hands to the world that is built, or destroyed, by these.
The simple beauty and radical glow surrounding nature is literally overshadowed by the grotesqueness of human influence. This painting shows that man and nature coexist, not because of a theatrical story but because of the visual progressions and the way the two worlds are interwoven.
The natural world contains and shelters the human world. There is however a clear discrepancy between these two, witnessed by the expanse of mountains and sky. Despite such expanse, what our eyes capture is the electricity pole as totem for the ever-growing invasion of man on nature.
Totem is a complex visual envelope that triggers the ambivalence between man and nature, hope and hopelessness, between yours and ours, between meaning and meaninglessness and between life and death. It contains exactly the "Why" we chose to do an exhibition about "Alienation".
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