'Threshold' was an exhibition of environmentally engaged art held in the Michaelis Gallery in October 2011, curated by Michaelis senior-lecturer Virginia MacKenny, as part of her 2011 Donald Gordon Creative Arts Award. It responds, in part, to the most pressing concern of our time; that of climate change. The exhibition, as its title suggests, engaged the premise that not only are the climatic conditions of the planet at a tipping point, but that we need to renegotiate our relationship to the planet, this place we call home. The exhibition was thus as much to do with perception, and the garnering of visual acuity and observation in the process of witnessing, as it was with environmental awareness. Encouraging our ability to notice and be attentive to both optical and conceptual perceptions better equips us to actively embody our custodianship of the planet.

Loosely built around the presence of the four elements earth, fire, water and air the exhibition revealed changes in the environment through reference to traditional genres of art such as landscape and flower painting. An example of work that exemplifies this was Andrew Putter’s digital articulation of indigenous flora from South Africa in the guise of Dutch 17th century flower paintings. While commenting on colonialism in Africa his utilisation of the vanities form was a reminder of broader issues of mortality and contemporary extinctions.


Images from the exhibition.