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Jeff Faulkner’s paintings of the landscape range across suburbia, urban parklands, the coast and to the mountains north of Melbourne. A recent print is Salt Land 2001. In this a creek runs through the lower half. Behind it stands a row of three or four large trees. In the foreground fence posts stand across the width of the image. The sky has small clouds swirling up, becoming larger and stronger. These clouds suggest some kind of movement in an otherwise stagnant scene. The clouds also resemble the small ripples and circles which form on the creek’s surface. I imagine eels and yabbies to be swimming beneath, or carp maybe. But probably not the native fish species which are one of the artist’s other interests. The trees and the fence posts are slowly rotting. The trees have long since lost their leaves and are sinking into the mud as their branches intermittently snap off. Wire hangs from the fence posts into the shallow creek and surrounding marsh. It is now rusting and coarse.  Nature is taking its revenge upon the fence posts planted there to divide the land. Nature is rendering the fence ineffective to its staked ownership of a specific area, of a particular place. Salt Land shows the demise and transformation of a landscape.  Once trees would grow, now changes wrought to the land have killed them. This work asserts the subtle hostility of nature – its destructiveness which might only be delivered and become evident over a long period of time.

The paintings and prints of Jeff Faulkner made over some twenty years do not lend themselves to grand statements about their ‘importance’ to Australian art. But this is irrelevant to the qualities and ideas explored, developed and mastered in the paintings and within the black frames in which his prints typically appear. Through Faulkner’s prints and paintings which are often directly complementary (if not in subject, then in their mood), the viewer comes to know a landscape which is at times threatening (Epiphany, Unfinished City) and at others, passive (Frontier, Wonga Park). Man’s place within the landscape is challenged and the figures themselves appear uncomfortable. These figures though, are those who have not accepted or explored the environment on its own terms. Like the fence posts in Salt Land, man will fight fruitlessly against nature if he does not understand it first. And this is part of what the full, rich landscapes by Jeff Faulkner assert, ever so subtly. The atmosphere and the particular aesthetic qualities being explored reveal themselves through quiet and purposeful looking.

Andy Fuller
November 2004

By the Wayside Exhibition 2008