Unnatural History : The Tower Hill Project commemorates 160 years since Eugene von Guerard painted Tower Hill (1855), held in Warrnambool Art Gallery’s permanent collection. The exhibition highlights the environmental impacts colonial settlement has had on this landscape since von Guerard’s time. It also reveals the significance of von Guerard’s painting, among others, in determining the re-vegetation programme, undertaken at Tower Hill State Game Reserve, by the local community in earnest from the 1960’s.
Hobie Porter’s practice is highly observational, and often overlaps Eugene von Guerard’s aesthetic motivations. His panoramic landscapes are overlaid with the minutiae that he discovers while exploring these sites. He pursues meaningful connections between the microcosm and the macrocosm. For this project, he is working with feathers, leaves, flowers, botanical specimens, ceramic shards, midden shells and indigenous healing stones. Each of these small elements contain an environmental dimension. They are painted in a Trompe L’oeil manner and interrupt his picturesque landscapes in ways that compel audiences to question why they are there. His depiction of Tower Hill celebrates its largely restored present state, contrasting dramatically with some (eerily beautiful) historical works that depict Tower Hill in its environmentally denuded state.