Ben Lysaght | Once a Wilderness
Having recently completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) from Massey University, Wellington-based painter Ben Lysaght returns to his home town for his first solo exhibition at the Ashburton Art Gallery. Once a Wilderness brings together a series of paintings created over the past year exploring the dilution of wild areas such as greenhouses, winter gardens and pockets of bush. Lysaght states that, for the most part, ‘wilderness’ is dead. “We still love the idea of a wilderness, an untouched land to discover…but what we are left with is manufactured wild areas. These spaces exist in stark contrast with what wilderness is supposed to mean; untouched by humans.”
Through his paintings Lysaght explores the many imitations of wilderness, with a focus on botanic gardens and greenhouses. Critiquing them as Eurocentric institutions, he examines their limitations and possibilities for the wider world.
“Historically they were filled with plants taken from the colonies in a grand display of power and scientific wonder. When they were first conceived, botanical gardens existed as a way to organise the plant world into a western understanding, to construct The Truth, while still demonstrating the wealth and power of the elite. The greenhouses acted as the most surreal and spectacular facet of this demonstration, while creating the illusion of being elsewhere.”