Like terrariums cradling prehistoric landscapes, the three vitrines of Dora Budor’s Origins I–III 2019 seem anchored in a time before plants, trees or life as we know it. Deposits of pigment and dust erupt from volcano mounds in a process resembling the early evolution of our atmosphere.
Expansive and inspiring, ‘Air’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane showcases more than 30 significant Australian and international artists, reflecting the vitality of our shared atmosphere. Presented across the entire ground floor of GOMA, the exhibition is a journey through this invisible, ethereal and vital element, reflecting on awareness of our shared atmosphere as life-giving, potentially dangerous and rapidly warming.
Dora Budor ‘Origin II (Burning of the Houses)’
Budor has described the Origin vitrines as ‘colour fields in motion’.1 In one chamber, puffs of red are followed by dark mauve–brown, then, suddenly, there is an eruption of blue; in another, sulphuric yellow mixes with terracotta; while the final tank contains blue and dusty pink, shot through with titanium white.
Each vessel meticulously references the hues in three works by the renowned English Romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner: The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, A Stag Drinking c.1829, The Burning of the Houses of Parliament c.1834–35 (illustrated) and Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth exhibited 1842 (all Collection: Tate). The industrial age of Turner’s lifetime brought about ‘a completely new type of air: dusty, foggy, and palpable atmosphere’, Budor recounts. ‘But not only does he [Turner] paint it, he leaves his studio skylight unrepaired with a gaping hole, letting the weather soak into his paintings.’2
Joseph Mallord William Turner ‘The Burning of the Houses of Parliament’
Origin I–III shares something of Turner’s collaboration with external forces. Each chamber is governed by the noise of a nearby building site, which is recorded in real time and translated into rhythmic outputs of air. When the site is busy, the chambers fill with a quick-moving haze; when external activity slows, the dust circulates to a gentler rhythm. For Budor, this link between the external activity and the work’s display gives expression to the way humanity constantly reshapes the environment, allowing the environment to ‘finish’ her work, just as the smog and rain completed Turner’s paintings:
My intention is to redistribute some of the control, to allow the artwork to act differently according to changes in its environment and its time. I often think of the Origin works as unstable ‘image-forms’, which are images created only to exist in a moment before they deconstruct and change into something else . . .3
Budor’s Origin I–III produces beautiful symphonies of colour, but, if we look longer, our minds might wander to questions of our cities’ infrastructure, the soil beneath the constructed environment, and the cycles of air and labour that travel through every building.
1 Dora Budor, video call with the author, 18 August 2021.
2 ‘On being a “Deviation Amplifying System”: Dora Budor in conversation with Elena Filipovic’, Flash Art, June–August 2019, p.84.
3 Dora Budor, quoted in ‘“Emma Kunz Cosmos” at Aargauer Kunsthaus / Dora Budor in conversation [with Meret Kaufmann]’, Blok, 11 June 2021, <blokmagazine.com/en-de-emma-kunz-cosmos-ataargauer-kunsthaus-dora-budor-inconversation/>, viewed June 2022; originally published in Emma Kunz Cosmos. A Visionary in Dialogue with Contemporary Art [exhibition catalogue], Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland, 2021.
Edited extract from the accompanying exhibition publication Air available at the QAGOMA Store and online.
‘Air’ / Gallery of Modern Art, Gallery 1.1 (The Fairfax Gallery), Gallery 1.2 & Gallery 1.3 (Eric and Marion Taylor Gallery) / 26 November 2022 to 23 April 2023