Nigel Hewitt making art from ash in Gallery Central exhibition Recinder


Nigel Hewitt in front of his work, Ghosts on the Tarn Shelf.
Nigel Hewitt in front of his work, Ghosts on the Tarn Shelf.

THE John Forrest National Park blaze of 2012 lit a fire in Nigel Hewitt, prompting the award-winning visual artist to try a new medium.

He frequented the parkland often for bushwalks and bike rides, and seeing the devastation was shocking.

“When I went in after the fire went through and really decimated the landscape, I was startled by the difference and I saw these pools of ash still smouldering, creating these wonderful tonal ash variations,” Hewitt said.

“I thought: ‘Wow, that is something I can actually do some work with’. My work is my voice; I am an artist and it’s the way I can speak about my concerns with what is going on with our environment and the sustainability of it.

“Using ash is loaded with all sorts of inherent meaning: the sense of loss, but it also has that sense of the cycle of life and how it adds back into the earth.”

Hewitt’s new exhibition, Recinder uses ash from the fire and others in Hobart – where Hewitt lives when he’s not in Perth – to recreate landscape that is under threat.

Comprising 12 pieces on canvas, the collection took six years to complete with “some incredibly frustrating moments” along the way.

“I thought: ‘I have this ash back in my studio and that’s wonderful but what do I do with it and how do I create what I want to create?’” Hewitt said.

“I wanted to create a pictorial reality that would draw people in – if you look at something and you recognise it, then people stop and that is so important to me.

“When you walk into the space, you see all these large works on the wall and in some cases they look like photographs and as you walk up towards them, that pictorial reality starts breaking down.

“When you get up close they are just sort of a mix of monochrome ash and you can’t make any sense of it – it only makes sense when you are standing back from it.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Recinder

When: May 2-19

Where: Gallery Central, Perth