When Lindsay Farrell paints natural form, he portrays features of the landscape as metaphor. He is exploring the metaphysical, while expressing his concern for the environment. Much of what remains of Queensland, natural or near-natural landscape is threatened by agricultural and tourist development, he says.
The spiritual and visual journeys through the southern, central and western Queensland landscape span a substantial portion of the artist’s career. His artistic choice is to paint savagely beautiful locations, such as Camarvon, Girraween, and Barney.
In 2002, Hutch stated that landscape painting has been a constant feature of Western painting since the sixteenth century. Over the last thirty years of artistic practice Farrell, developed his own vision of the Queensland landscape within a Christian framework. To do this he uses symbols associated with Christianity: “the cross, the circle and natural elements, water and fire.” In doing this he creates a vision of the landscape, which is both physical and spiritual.
Intimate Knowledge of Environment Through Painting
Travelling the areas he paints is a pleasurable way for Farrell to develop an intimate knowledge of the environment within which his artistic exploration takes place. He has also carefully studied the topography, to gain an understanding of the vast river system of central and western Queensland. In developing this relationship with the land, Farrell has become aware of the extreme fragility of this vast ancient space, which is now subjected to stress from development since the arrival of European settlers.
He understands the vast river system of central and western Queensland,
\”the lakes, the alignment of the valley carved out by the water flow, the complex structures of flood plains, the destructive and regenerative role of fire as a shaper of the landscape, and the mysterious bubbling of water the surface of otherwise barren soil from deep and immemorial aquifers\”. (ACU Library Web accessed Jan 2011)
Christian Symbolism Springs from an Ecological Theology. Farrell\’s use of Christian symbolism complements Indigenous representation of the land, he says. “Some of the Christian symbols allude to Christ\’s sacrifice, that is, his physical wounding and death at the hands of his fellow humans.” In this representation Farrell recognises the Divine presence.
Farrell brings a sensitive intuition to his practice in this depiction of the landscape, which springs from an ecological theology. The sensibility expresses itself in specific Christian terms. At the time of the exhibition, Earth Fire Water in 2002, the critique of his work by Airo-Farulla cited him as all the more courageous because he sets out to challenge the traditional view of domination over the Earth given to humanity by God in Genesis. His paintings are an expression, not of a “licence to exploit and plunder” but as custodianship, that is, to “care for and nurture the Earth and all it bounties.”
Lindsay Farrell is Dean of Arts and Sciences at Australian Catholic University (Banyo Campus)
In 1987 he was awarded the Caroline Barker Travelling Art Scholarship by the City of Brisbane and the Royal Queensland Art Society. He holds a PhD from Griffith University and has research interest in art and spirituality. He maintains his own art practice as a painter, exhibiting widely in Australia and overseas.
His recent exhibition Stations of the Cross takes his exploration of spirituality in landscape) a step further. In March 27 he walked from St John’s Cathedral, the location of the first station, the upper room, and concluded at St Stephen’s Cathedral. Through the project he set out to engage with the Brisbane CBD and churches across the city, by tracing the story of Easter in our place and time, Farrell (2010)
In the past he has shown at the Australian Embassy, Washington DC (1996), The University of Queensland Customs House Gallery, Brisbane (1998), Suraci Gallery Marywood University, Pennsylvania (1999), Aquinas Gallery, Grand Rapids Michigan (2000) and Gallery 482 Brisbane (2001).