Words: Nina Miall
James Geurts’s work excavates the unseen histories, forces and phenomena that have shaped our landscape and waterways over millennia. Encompassing expanded forms of drawing, experimental photography, sculptural installation and public art, these “site-actions”, as the Melbourne-based artist calls them, are grounded in conceptually driven and highly site-specific ways of working. They draw together research, fieldwork, cartography, analogue and digital technologies, and specialist knowledge to stage wondrous philosophical encounters between humanity and a natural world in flux.
Water is an enduring theme in Geurts’s work, as is time, in all its vast, perplexing abstraction. The two converge in a new site-responsive work Standing Wave, 2022, made for Front Beach, Back Beach at Point Nepean on the Mornington Peninsula. The installation’s pulsing light articulates how the unique interaction of tidal forces and currents at that particular location gives rise to the phenomenon of the standing wave, which oscillates in time while appearing to be still.
This year, Geurts took up a highly prized Australia Council residency at the ACME studios in London, which has generated further international opportunities while also allowing him to research the international dateline for a future project.
2022 also marked the completion of the ambitious 20-year-long EON project, 2002-22, whose crystalline sculptural forms – simultaneously evoking early multi-cellular life forms and high-tech satellite constellations – embed time in ways that connect the primordial to the technological. It represents a culmination of Geurts’s ongoing desire “to create visibility around these invisible forms”, whether wave transmissions, data frequencies, tectonics, or oceanic movement – all the dynamic, miraculous workings of a world that is continually unfolding.
Featured image above: James Geurts, EON Satellite III, 2022. Bronze sculpture with white patina, 130 x 105 x 58cm. Courtesy: the artist, T.C.L. Landscape Architects and GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide.
Featured image below: James Geurts, Flood Debris: Princes Bridge, 2018. Neon, 2.2 x 1.8 x 1.1m. Floodplain Project, Yarra River/Birrarung. Courtesy: the artist, GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023.