Julia Davis: Dark Matter, Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Sydney.

Julia Davis developed her latest series of work during an Australia Council residency in Rome. She travelled alongside volcanologists and geologists to areas where people live under the persistent threat of a volcanic eruption. The Dark Matter series, now on show at Manly Art Gallery & Museum, evolved from previous bodies of work that considered time and its relationship with the human body. The environment and its effects is also a key area of study for Davis as well as the ways in which we affect our surroundings.

The underlying area of exploration in the Dark Matter exhibition is the active and transformative aspects of the known and unknown material world. Davis expresses: “The journey increased my awareness of tensions between anticipated loss and subsequent renewal, as well as the duality of processes that create and destroy, corrode and protect.” During her residency, she walked on fresh earth and lava imprinted landscapes in search of known and unknown energies and forces. The exhibition space entertains its own engagement of energies that can be felt, perceived and interacted with.

As viewers enter, they are presented with Dark Matter (2016), an installation consisting of a revolving disc, rare earth magnets and iron fillings. As the disc revolves and the magnets move in different directions, the iron fillings come together and separate, resulting in a state of continual change and movement. The formations created intersect purposefully yet randomly as the ripples of energy rupture and distort the surface. An eager search for the source of this fluid interaction between the iron fillings is likely to take place.

Also included in the show is a sheet that contains densely grounded volcanic ash. A piece of Davis’ journey is documented in work, the rawness and density of the ash is almost palpable. Viewers will also see Ru(a)pture #5 (2016) which is a large ink jet print imposed against a wall. Reflective of the immense power and uncontrolled forces of nature, the black and white image occupies peaceful and awe inspiring tendencies as it pauses on a turbulent and relentless expansive mass of volcanic energy. The beauty and tranquility in this is image is observable but so too are the strengths, dominance and unpredictabilities of such an event.

For Davis, making art is about relationships, she says: “Making my work is a way of making connections with these relationships in a world where social and economic processes create so many disconnections. Our society is fast, it’s all about speed. Maybe one purpose of art can be to slow down time… maybe open a part of our consciousness that isn’t necessarily closed but constrained.” Time does seem to slow in the Dark Matter exhibition as there is a desire to be still and patiently survey the meditative works that prolong your interest.

Julia Davis, Dark Matter, until 4 September, Manly Art Gallery & Museum, West Esplanade Reserve, Manly, 2095, NSW, Australia.

Sara Sweet

Ru(a)pture #5, 2016, Inkjet on Canson rag, 240 x 150cm. Courtesy the artist and Manly Art Gallery & Museum