Dry Rain  

Tweed River Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre  |  2009

Arthouse Gallery  |  2009

Whether or not you are familiar with Hobie Porter’s impressive paintings, it would be almost impossible not to be affected in some way by his quietly compelling, painterly land and sky scapes. Porter sets the scene of our environmental future in a subtle, meditative, yet anxious way.

The title of the exhibition is a clear indication of the artist’s employment of extremes, and mirrors a central irony depicted in this body of work. The collection of paintings presents a perplexing quandary; how is it that the leaves are all falling downwards from the clouds instead of fluttering upwards, as they usually and logically should be? This unexpected imagery suggests that something is askew, that all is not right in the natural world, and Porter thus sets the stage for an intriguing drama. The metaphorical storm clouds are definitely looming. Above the sublime landscapes, which symbolise all that is beautiful and perfect in nature, hover crispy, impossibly dry leaves representing the rain that cannot fall to nourish the land below. It is difficult to discount the importance of these leaves as harbingers of an uncertain future.

The placement of the artist’s protagonists in these most recent paintings are thoughtfully positioned on the canvas as if they were being heralded into formation - almost as if they are gathering in defence against some imminent metaphysical aerial combat. In this body of work the artist also introduces the theme of man-made power sources and the impact of human civilisation on the land. Although subtly inserted into the paintings via the inclusion of a power pole or a whispery smoky trail of a grass fire, the message resonates loudly as the legions of dry leaves have identified attackers in their midst. This visually articulated scene is then counterbalanced by the gentle nestling of some leaves against others, mirroring our own tentative relationship with the environment.

This body of work could be read on a spiritual level. Some of the leaves form natural shapes such as spirals and helixes, and are in communion with their neighbouring leaves and clouds. There is a majesty and a grandeur in some of the shapes that these congregated leaves form that suggests a higher, perhaps even urgent, level of interpretation. The clever assembly of the leaves in Dissolution and the imposing central leaf formation could be interpreted as a sign of hope for the future, or perhaps this powerful image hovers in judgment of us and our treatment of the environment?

Despite the concentration demanded by Porter’s paintings, they also exude calm and a sense of serenity. The artist has expertly woven a number of layers of both meaning and paint into his panoramas, skillfully employing a subdued and modest palette to increase an awareness of distance. It is both uplifting and promising to see the rays of sunshine quilting small areas of the landscapes, offering glimmers of hope and warmth for the future.

Susi Muddiman, 2009