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Valerie Sparks

valerie@valeriesparks.com.au

valeriesparks.com.au

PROSPERO'S ISLAND

Prospero's Island series

In 2016 Sparks completed a commission for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery’s (TMAG) exhibition ‘Tempest’ with the support of the Australia Council. It was an opportunity to explore large scale wallpaper installations within a gallery setting. Wallpaper, as Eliza Burke commented in her introduction to the exhibition, is something that Sparks has made 'her unique medium'. The work at TMAG comprised a large digital print wallpaper installation of two panels each 350 by 685 cm, and created a moody, breathtaking and immersive experience. 
What follows is an extract from Burke's text about Sparks's installation, these stunning companion pieces are exhibited as prints in MGA's exhibition, including 'Prospero's Island – North East' (2016) which won the Bowness Photography Prize in 2016. 
'Since 2003, Valerie Sparks has made wallpaper her unique medium. Drawing on her background in Anthropology and Pacific Studies, Sparks uses wallpaper to create immersive installations that explore contemporary narratives of post-colonialism and globalization. She uses digital imaging techniques to reference the ornate appeal of eighteenth century European wallpapers and concepts of the panoramic, inviting viewers into worlds shaped by multiple histories and views.
Informed by her experience of Tasmania’s landscape during a 2015 residency, Sparks’ Tempest commission, Prospero’s Island offers a fictionalised image of the Tasman Peninsula and the east coast of Tasmania and its surrounding seascapes.
Derived from multiple photographic sources, it depicts a hybrid place of beauty and brutality, encompassing the dual forces of Tasmania’s pristine environment and its troubled colonial history.
 
Across two panels, the work follows the emotional arc of Shakespeare’s Prospero figure - Cape Pillar’s dolomite cliffs and the approaching ship suggesting his revengeful plot against his brother Antonio, the inlet sanctuary and calmer seas on the right echoing his forgiveness at the end of the play. From the shore, TMAG’s African grey parrot cocks his eye to the viewer, inviting us to recognise the multiple displacements unleashed on this world, a Prospero figure wisely anticipating the storm.
As with all of Sparks’ works, the view from the gallery is expansive, the horizon line refusing any central focal point. The painterly stretch of sky makes the source of light uncertain, suggesting eclipsing worlds, a fractured spectrum wrought by shifting storm cells and the many historical and fictional allusions in the work. Like the exploratory fantasies of eighteenth century wallpapers, Prospero’s Island exceeds the bounds of the gallery, looking beyond Tasmania’s internal compass to troubled environments anywhere on the globe. Prospero’s Island continues Sparks’ long term interest in creating art wallpapers.'
 
Burke, Eliza (2016) Tempest exhibition catalogue, 10 June - 20 November, 2016, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.

Valerie SPARKS

Prospero's Island – North East  2016
from the series Prospero's Island
pigment ink-jet print
140.0 x 220.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
acquired 2017
MGA 2017.38
courtesy of the artist

Prospero's Island

A conjured storm in an otherwise placid sea

The Prospero’s Island diptych was the first work through which Sparks responded to a literary source. It was one of the most famous and most powerful plays ever written, 'The Tempest' by Shakespeare. It was a rare chance to immersive herself in a narrative that is steeped in theatrical illusion and manipulation of staged scenes, traits that are reflected in her own practice and brought alive through the layering of landscapes and the characters that inhabit these impossibly beautiful scenes.

 

In this composition there is a ‘sense of difference and juxtaposition’ which mirrors her own experience of the Tasmanian landscape and the way she composes her work. Sparks described in her artist statement the significance of utilising the Tasmanian landscape as a backdrop to her exploration of Shakespeare's Prospero's Island.

Artist statement: 'The diverse landscapes of Tasmania provide a rich source of imagery from which to create an interpretation of Shakespeare’s Prospero’s Island. ‘Prospero’s Island – North East’ explores the narrative arc of ‘The Tempest’ from vengeance to forgiveness. The wild cliffs of Tasmania’s south coast are brought together with the sublime stillness of the north and east coasts to explore the theme of displacement, which is central to both The Tempest and the turbulent history of Tasmania. The birds inhabiting the work are from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collection and represent the romantic and mystical elements of ‘The Tempest’, in particular the role of Ariel in guiding Prospero to a point of emotional resolution and forgiveness.' (Valerie Sparks, artist statement, William & Winifred Bowness Photography Prize 2016). 
When the work won the Prize, Sparks commented that 'this was the first work that was going to be very specific to a location. One of the things that motivated me was honouring one of Australia’s most iconic landscapes.' Kallie Blauhorn, a judge and MGA Director at the time, commented that 'Valerie’s work is breathtaking. With this piece, she has once again proven that she is both a master technician and serious creative talent.'

DETAILS

DETAILS

Prospero's Island – South West 

Valerie SPARKS

Prospero's Island – South West  2016
from the series Prospero's Island
pigment ink-jet print
140.0 x 220.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
acquired 2017
MGA 2017.38
courtesy of the artist

DETAILS

THE TEMPEST

INSTALLATION VIEWS 

 

Tempest exhibition, 10 June - 20 November, 2016, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.

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