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LV 1, The Nicholas Building, corner Flinders Lane and 37 Swanston st, Melbourne  

Zac Koukoravas’ latest works recontextualise the relationship between nature and us. Replacing the familiar with the sublime, Koukoravas places elements of nature into a militant context. Are we at war with that which we adore? 

These fragmented still-life paintings, layered on Perspex, reference the botanical through a subversive lens. Playing with camouflage and colour these explorations into the organic form juxtapose the enchanting with the malevolent keeping our current global climate crisis in the epicentre of their visual narrative.  

The process for developing this series involved taking still-life photos and drawings of flowers and foliage then geometrically abstracting them into urban camouflage patches. The images provided a base for all the work and were a response to the emotional effects of being in a natural environment. Through various processes, the images are shattered, fragmented and reconstructed into arrangements of geometric forms that spill over as well as strike a pose of flux, transition and states of suspended space. The resulting works are large multicoloured, hardline, abstracted paintings that reference the outdoor spaces the artist had access to during 2020. The series features 12 small works with up to six layers of depth and four larger and bolder pieces with opaque painted forms and light dustings of airbrush.

Homemade Weapons | Catalogue Essay

Elli Walsh, 2021

As with much art emerging from the past year, Zac Koukoravas’ latest series pivots, conceptually, on our current global crisis. Layered on Perspex, these hardline abstracted paintings draw from a deep (and indeed fraught) history of Nature as muse, with the artist responding to the emotional effects of a moment when vast natural landscapes were almost entirely out of reach. During the 2020 pandemic – now a ubiquitous umbra of global life – the simple home garden became an unlikely source of the sublime, its mundane splendour donating awe and wonder at a time when such feelings had been incarcerated by lockdown.

Tending to his overgrown garden in 2020, Koukoravas contemplated the confluence of calamities that beset that year; from the devastation of the summer fires to the onset of a new global threat paralysing the world. Ecological crisis waltzed with biological catastrophe as fear stretched tight across the collective consciousness. Macro issues such as global warming and natural disasters orbited real everyday fears and burgeoning taboos like touching surfaces or brushing up against strangers. And yet, although this series sprang from bleak anthropogenic and existential contemplations, the works feel joyous, bright – hopeful, even. Koukoravas intended the works to be darker, certainly, but as colourful compositions materialised he considered this series to be a subconscious antidote to fear. The proverbial restorative power of art, actually at play.

The process for developing ‘Homemade Weapons’ involved geometrically abstracting still-life photos and drawings of foliage into urban camouflage patches. Through various processes, the images are fragmented and reconstructed into arrangements of forms that topple onto the picture plane as if shattered from some unseen source. Through these subversive botanical tropes carefully rendered with camouflage and colour, Koukoravas places nature into a militant context. ‘Are we at war with that which we adore? Is nature turning on us? Is it retaliation, or has she gone on the offensive?’ the artist remarks.

On the one hand, the paintings feel topological and tectonic, as if the earth’s crust has splintered into new formations that are shifting, barely visible, before our eyes. Then, they are orchestral – choral, even – with cadences of colour conjuring baritone, bass and tenor (music is an ongoing inspiration for the artist). Perhaps you can feel the quivering vibrations of sound ricocheting off each sharp-edged contour, hatching a silent song that takes shape in the viewer’s imagination. From another angle, the cascade of amorphous shards sliding over and under each other brings to mind archaeology, opening the works up to notions of revelation and concealment, history and memory. It is this chameleon aspect of Koukoravas’ works that generates states of suspended space, of flux, of multiplicity. Looking at the same painting in a different sitting incarnates entirely new affiliations.

The pieces in this series feature up to six layers of depth on acrylic panels, as well as painted opaque forms and light dustings of airbrush, becoming crucibles of light, depth, shadow and space that play with our perception of three-dimensonality. We are not fooled, of course – but the temptation to lose oneself to this illusionary geometry is strong. Dissolving into these benevolent kaleidoscopes might, indeed, be what we all need right now.   

Artist Statement, 2021

In this new series of works Nature is my muse and I've placed her within a war-like context. Is nature turning on us? Is it retaliation, or has she gone on the offensive? I asked myself these questions in early 2020 whilst tending to my overgrown garden – processing my feelings in response to the devastation wrought by the summer fires and the onset of a new global threat that would soon paralysed the world. Fearing the air that I was breathing, the people I interacted with or the surfaces I would touch felt really alien and confusing.

Like many of us I have spent most of my free time away from work either in my garden (I’m not much of a gardener) or walking with my dog at the local park. These moments were familiar and provided a sense of comfort unique to immersing oneself in the splendour that is the botanical, natural world. I also found myself feeling really helpless in the face of Nature’s true power: its awe-inspiring, resilient and indiscriminate power. But at the same time I was very aware that these fears were also the result of the choices and behaviour of humankind. We are in many ways our worst enemy.

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