Somewhere in rural Australia, a caravan is nested underneath a windbreak of fir trees. Some conifers reach up to the right. A viral rash of blackberry growth spreads to the left. Once a new vehicle ablush with cream paint and navy borders, the caravan's exterior now resembles a pale body streaked with lividity. Mottled rust patches and murky grey are smudged across its corpus. Its metallic allure is a faded memory.
This location is not entirely in a remote outreach. Away from the alienating desert where indigenous atmospherics offer no quarter, we are much nearer the coast and its cloying clutch to our colonial heritage. If we concentrate, we can smell the ocean. Brine. Rum. Hulls. Sailors. The surrounding greenery is the mouldy bath ring of British and European inhabitation. Some might find it beautiful. Whoever owns this caravan probably took holidays here.
Outside, wind whistles softly through the pines. They blanket any sense of the elements swirling around the caravan's frail aluminium shell. Inside, laminex coats everything like Mylanta lines the stomach. Once shiny surfaces bearing faux wood, marble and sand, now betray their illusory signage. Photo-simulative textures which once beckoned our gaze into their flattened depth now peel and curdle - the result of electrical appliances with no auto-off switches. The shiny skin of the laminate is dull, smoky, jaundiced. The masonite backing buckles, lifting off the caravan's infrastructure. Water has seeped into the cracks. The flatness of the laminated lining is perversely 3-D, its image corrupted by depth.
Having stared too long into this hallucinogenic Australian cyclone of imaginary woodwork, we pass through its coated barrier into the setting of a Gary Carsley 'painting'. Like the caravan's maritime ducco and its arboreal interior, this painting is a realm of delusional formalism and utter plasticity. Neither oil nor water nor linen nor paper can be smelt or touched. Yet no photochemical aura persists. The materiality of this painting ontologically hovers, suspended in an immaterial freeze-frame of pictorial sensorialism. It smells like furniture. It photographs nothing. It doesn't even look like a painting: it looks like paint peeling.
Squinting at its canopy of flaked colour, we perceive a landscape. Not the land, but its made-up mask. Not nature's face but its cosmetic skin. It is a portrait of a parkland: a pre-framed pre-ordained environment posed as the natural Other against human occupancy. This is Nature, so it's all about the look, not the thing. It's all about how land is made to look, not how it is. Accordingly, this averment of parkland perspective is presented as a material phenomenon - not an ideological assertion. The surface of the painting is interlaced like skin abrasions uncovering unending sheaths of fake woodwork. Melding French Polishing and French Impressionism, the result is a dermal scraping of pastoral pictorialism. Like the burred and sanded surface of cheap wooden boards once painted, these are 'de-primed' and 'de-painted' expanses. They await no finish, as their self-exposure of granular mirages defines the level at which their image is compacted. Their post-photographic capture of post-colonial landscape thus redirects the ways in which we perceive both the image's surface and the illusory depth it unfolds.
Far from enlisting visual grammar, Gary's framed flora is a reconstitution of visual noise. Eschewing the binary pull between abstract and representational tendencies, this scenery is over coded with illusory planes and mimetic surfaces. Each declare their position simultaneously and through conflicting orientations. Every frazzled zone and picturesque patch of wooden laminate is at once isolated as an island of texture and bordered by a rim or an adjacent peninsula of patterning. They voice their position not in opposition, but through interference and distortion. The scenario is determined not by collaging elements to heighten edges, but by arranging all fragments so they perform as underlay and overlay to each other.
We are now in a gallery containing a selection of Gary's images. Scanning their seeming similarity, we can note that humans have not arrived on the scene. Or they have, and now face that which we cannot discern. The Australian bush and its mythic terrible beauty is less a jungle populated by myriad dangers and more a singular entity whose massive abstraction will cause all to become lost. The bones of Burke and Wills, Azaria Chamberlain and thousands of missing persons have fertilized the Australian landscape. They enter stage right and exit stage dead centre, composting themselves into the lumpen totality of 'the bush'.
But camouflage here operates in a chorus of possibilities. The terrifying spectre of the bush's teeming foliage is tamed by the visage of the parkland, its actioned landscaping and its inviting design. Gary's pictorial lens fuses family retreats with gay beats, each occupying the same terrain but in distinct dimensions. The result is pretty parkland whose lushness provides camouflage for acts undreamt by the Forestry Commission.
The internal arrangement of these images is not only cosmetic, but also theatrical. They are more stages than scenes. Their lineage to the Heidelberg School and its heroic figures is likewise more pantomime presentation than pastoral evocation. The Impressionist impulse adopted by the Heidelberg School endears an erotic abstraction through light modulating visible surfaces. Gary's compressed camouflage refigures light as a randomizing node in the rendering of interconnected surfaces. Like a trompe l'oiel of crazy quilted cross-hatching, the landscape before us is not how it appears, but what it is not. Here in this White Forest, you get where you need to go by being lost.
The lineage of pastoral music - especially of its 18th Century impulse to musically liquefy an aesthetic mapping of the land - traces European high art's dream of being in harmony with nature. Ultimately music here in these subversive beats is a truly earthy affair. Guttural, subsonic, pulsating, it synchs to the ocular vibrations of the paintings' dizzying maps of leaves and light. The heroic tradition of landscape painting is emptied of its poetic allusions to hope, dreams and prayers. In place we have semen and urine, mingled with the excreta of nocturnal marsupials and their invisible trails.
Gary's paintings perversely harmonize with nature by becoming entirely unnatural: by becoming aberrant through the act of depicting land. His scenarios remain still while capturing the glittering fractality of the ubiquitous mirror ball. They are dazzlingly abstract and terrifyingly figurative. No string quartets thread themselves through these majestic trees. Disco blares at the sub-strata of their visual patterning.
Gary's self-labelling of his formations as draguerrotypes is a succinct sign. More painters, sculptors and photographers should trademark their practice and label themselves with neologisms. The act of naming here is a gleeful slippage between historical inscription and mechanical reproduction. It mocks photographic origination and frocks technical determinism. Extending Gary's monocular scope of the colonised world as an unending nightclub for making-over and dressing-up (and all verbs between), the draguerrotype is the painting itself as performance. Not the actionist documentation of chauvinistic pre-cum, but the disembodied energy that channels ocular fetishism. These are, of course, neither lands nor landscapes; neither loci nor locations.
Suddenly we find it difficult to move. Staring too long at Gary's images - lured by the their subsonic flickering, excited by the illicit encounters they subliminally inscribe - we have become fused with the epidermal lining between the canvas and the paint of Frederick McCubbin's Lost (1886). Squirming, we peer into the receding background of this quieting landmark of Australian impressionism. In the distance: a caravan, lots of laminex, and two men taking a walk in the park.7