SAM Drawing Wall under way

By John Lewis

A big bold zig-zag splash of blue and brown paint is emerging across the foyer wall at Shepparton’s Eastbank centre as the 35th Shepparton Art Museum Drawing Wall got under way this week.

The work by Alex Pittendrigh, who is based in Melbourne and Tanja in NSW, is called Près des Eaux: Tears of Isis and refers to water, river systems and the legacy of ancient cultures.

Mr Pittendrigh said it tied his interest in the environment with a long-held passion for ancient cultures.

He said the work specifically referenced symbolic and sacred readings of water in Egyptian tomb paintings, while in a contemporary context it addressed issues faced by river systems in Australia, such as the recent mass fish deaths in the Murray-Darling Basin at Menindee.

‘‘At a symbolic level, water symbolises rebirth and new life after the destruction wrought by flood,’’ Mr Pittendrigh said.

The title, he said, was inspired by a series of watercolours by French symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, who often used mythological subjects that appeared to him in dreams.

When complete, the latest Drawing Wall painting will cover about 10m by 2m of the wall’s surface.

The work has been painted with pencil and non-toxic acrylic and watercolour paints.

Mr Pittendrigh said breaks in the design were deliberate.

‘‘On occasion the viewer will be confronted by irregularities or fractures in the overall geometric design, suggesting that the water’s life-giving flow has been disrupted or perhaps polluted by a lack of care for what has given life, and a failure to heed the wisdom of those who cared for it long before,’’ he said.

Mr Pittendrigh works chiefly in painting, sculpture and installation.

He maintains a strong interest in classical antiquity, how its long echo might usefully intersect with the present day and how it continues to resonate with contemporary cultures’ anxieties and discontents.

He has undertaken residencies at The British School in Rome, Italy; The Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris; Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces in Melbourne; and has participated in group shows such as Uncanny Nature at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and Lurid Beauty at the National Gallery of Victoria.