If trees are carriers of symbolic possibilities, the exhibition Beyond the Trees is a powerful and poetic response to our emotive connections to our planet. Climate change, the environment and the preservation of diversity are ‘hot’ topics. The life sustaining essence of trees is explored deftly by Victor Majzner who eschews these living monuments ideals of endurance and longevity. Often emblematic of patience and wisdom, dozens of canvases stand like proud sentinels along the gallery walls of the light-drenched Langford 120 in North Melbourne.
Beyond the Woods sign-posts a sharp twist in the tale of this image-maker of ideas of the Divine. An innate colourist, Majzner’s narratives intrigue and are full of pathos. Screams at the world mingle with recurring faces reiterating a human helplessness – a search for salvation? Many questions are raised without resolution as the trees sit expectantly, quietly on the walls – contemplating and confronting. Looking Into Myself, after Felix N, 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 92 x 92 cm (above).
Portal to Memory, After Ezra K, 2013, 92 x 92cm (above), reflects two strong entertwined trees in a puddle of water – brothers who are emotionally connected or lovers? The connection is powerful and strong, a reflection as a symbolic portal to a memory from the past. A thought bubble hovers offering comfort, that these two souls are still looking after each other.
Much of Majzners’ writings on his work are encapsulated in an insanely beautiful box-set featuring a complete catalogue of works and an additional visual diary filled with studio insights and authored offerings on his mid-career trajectory. Designed by the artist’s equally talented son, Andrew of Paper, Stone, Scissors fame, its clear the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
The above image lends its’ title from one of the most moving of Billie Holiday’s songs, Strange Fruit. The gigantic tree, a universe of life has from time to time become the conduit for violence, racism and death. Sanctified by manmade laws and attitudes of power where the humanity of ‘the other’ has been degraded to a possession, only to be disposed of at the racist whim of the plantation master of the KKK gang in the American South up to the 60’s.
Victor explains that Alex Skovron’s poem The Sky Tree was the starting inspiration for this painting, “Memories of fairy tales from my childhood, of dark forests where miraculous adventures took place were other inspirational sources. Out of darkness /’nothing’/chaos energy swarms into a vortex that eventually forms into branches of a tree, like lightening rods of light coming down to ‘earth’ with lights at each braces’ extremity, illuminating / suggesting a spiritual dimension as its source. Through the branches, at night can be seen small villages with their distinguished church spires. These villages are separated by dark forests and by meandering country roads and lanes illuminated by ‘golden’ lights – magic pervades.”
The roots of tradition and story-telling are embedded firmly into Majzner’s earth and the longer you spend gazing around the collection, the tighter the grip becomes. As he shows me around ‘the cage’ studio (above) – two days after a first viewing, these images resonate still, in my minds’ eye. Each with a story to tell and a potential lesson to unfurl.