James Powditch
Winning climate

Elizabeth Fortescue
The Daily Telegraph August 22, 2007


Disaster fuelled by the suburban dream . . . Mosman Art Prize winner James Powditch. Picture BOB BARKER

If you want to shoot the breeze with Sydney artist James Powditch, it will help if you know your Soylent Green from The Emerald Forest. Powditch is a self-confessed obsessive about popular science, dystopian futures and environmental disaster films. In his new exhibition, cinematic eco-thrillers become the backdrop against which he sets his melancholy for planet Earth's lost environmental innocence.

Powditch's emotional response to global warming informs the ideas in his assemblages which feature a wide range of materials.

There are covers of old Penguin books, industrial detritus from his studio's former incarnation as a clothing factory, and landscape paintings sourced from op-shops which Powditch uses to tweak the nostalgia button. The titles of some of his assemblages - such as Enjoy Soylent Green, Omega Man and Planet Of The Apes - refer directly to sci-fi thrillers. But the title of the work that won Powditch last month's $20,000 Mosman Art Prize was Butterfly Effects, referring to the chaos theory where a butterfly that flaps its wings in the Amazon can cause a tornado in Texas. Powditch made the work by assembling found materials on to a flat background and painting a large Brazilian butterfly on top.

He added old photographs of early Australian bungalows to invoke the days before airconditioners came standard in new homes. Pages from a Penguin book of modern Chinese history were used to form a patchwork background. The pages hint at the industrial boom in China fuelled by Western consumerism and now contributing to global pollution.

"The idea was the suburban dream fuelling climate change," Powditch says. "I'm not (preaching) climate change. I am coming at it from a more emotive angle with that sense of loss."

For Powditch, one of the worst things about climate change is the political spin it attracts.

"To me, it's fundamentally a scientific issue," he says.

WHERE: 61 Flinders St, Surry Hills. Wednesday-September 16 Ph: 9380 5663. The Mosman Art Prize is on view at the Mosman Art Gallery until Sunday.

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