Paul White

I am intrigued by obsolescence, the passing of time and the transformation associated with it. I am interested in how memory, place and time shape us, and in examining particular moments in my personal history to map out a navigation of the world.

Growing up in the suburbs of Sydney, cars, bikes and other modes of transport were a necessity and a passion. Not only were they a means of getting around and out of the suburbs, but modified cars were also a source of desire and a means of expressing identity, like a type of art object.

Wrecking yards provided a cost effective way to keep these machines running – it was an era of DIY. I was always fascinated by the stillness within them; it was like time had stood still. I would wonder about the history of the cars that had been smashed, abandoned or simply rendered obsolete— who had owned them and what was the story behind them?

Fast forward years later and a Samstag Scholarship enabled me to live and study in Los Angeles. This was the ultimate location to explore my interest in both car culture and popular culture. The evidence of the passing of time, objects in decline and the flux of the everyday became amplified in this sprawling metropolis. It could be seen and encapsulated in the various cultural boneyards that I came across or sought out. These included a neon sign boneyard, a Wild West ghost town, classic car wrecking yards and various plane boneyards in the deserts of California and Arizona. I became increasingly interested in modes of transport rendered frozen in time through abandonment and replacement.

The few years that I spent on the west coast of the USA gave me direct experience with this iconic landscape. It was simultaneously an interesting progression and escape from the suburbs of Sydney. Having previously absorbed this landscape through the many television shows and movies filmed there, the actual experience of it became like a relived memory.

My most recent trip through the USA was in 2011 in order to gather imagery to make drawings from. Much of the imagery collected (including stripped down planes, cars, trains and other machinery) resembled scenes from end–of–the–world or disaster movies. During the trip I had, in a way, situated myself as the figure in the landscape, mirroring one of the characters in one of these movies.

I have an intimate connection to each of my images, as in most cases I have taken the photo of the images that I use as the basis for my drawings. The process of using pencil on paper in a meticulous and highly detailed manner is not only an attempt to gather every degree of detail from the image by conducting a thorough investigation into it, but also a way for me to slow down the world with such a time-consuming process. I attempt to encapsulate the stillness and silence of these once-noisy machines that used to be objects of necessity and desire through travel.

In many cases the imagery that I work with and am drawn to also has a personal history. I often refer to car makes and models that I had desired and sketched many years ago as a young child, or had interaction with as the family car (Holden Kingswoods/ Commodores), or as an adult myself at some point owned (Holden Toranas/Pontiac Firebird). So not only do the images of car remnants provide a vessel to investigate the passing of time of the actual object, but also in a parallel fashion, the passing of that object in terms of my relationship to it; from dreaming to gaining to moving past.

Like the exploration of junkyards, by looking back at moments in time I am exploring memory and objects of the everyday and how they shift with place and time.

In recent times my exploration of these obsolete and abandoned machines has come into sync with current events with the impending closing of the car industry in Australia. At one time the cars of choice for many families in the suburbs were the iconic brands of ‘Australia’s own’, Holden and Ford (albeit subsidiaries of US giants) now becoming obsolete and unviable in contemporary times. Likewise, in recent news Qantas has been forced to make many workers redundant and retire aircraft. There is also an increasing reliance on imported fuel; the ease of global movement that is the beauty of travel and modern times creating obsolescence in local production and identity.

Paul White is represented by Scott Livesey Galleries, MelbourneEXHIBITION
Obsolescent Transit
Until 24 May
2014 Scott Livesey Galleries

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