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Dream City Demolition at M16 Gallery

    M16 Artspace, Friday 12 May – Sunday 4 June 2023

    Opening Thursday 11 May, 6 – 8pm

    Dream City Demolition presents a series of new works documenting Canberra’s changing urban places. In capturing Canberra’s dynamic landscape, my intention is to draw attention to the materiality of places and how this contributes to what we remember and what we value. What histories are embedded in the fabric of place and what are the environmental costs of urban renewal?

    The process of demolition is undeniably captivating. Watching the Benjamin Offices being dismantled, I was struck by the relentless heaps of deconstructed concrete and twisted steel rebar. Were the brutalist designs no longer appreciated or simply impractical for modern offices? The complex had previously been home to the Department of Immigration and possibly some of the most inequitable policy decisions in Australia’s history. Now as the building’s erasure unfolded I sifted through my limited knowledge of these policies. Tampa? Children overboard? Stopping the boats? Maybe too many bad decisions? I wondered what other histories might these huge piles of concrete hold. Concrete has been labelled one of the most destructive materials on the planet.[1] How much concrete did these building take to build and what would happen to it? As the bulldozers and machines did their dance, sifting and sorting the piles, I hold out some hope that some of it will be recycled, maybe into new buildings or homes. We surely need to find ways to make positive change through urban renewal that is rejuvenating and healing, without the huge environmental cost.

    Realist painting has experienced a renewed appreciation in the digital age. Personally, I am drawn to realist painting for its ability to capture the world, not only through its aesthetic quality, but also how it can communicate resilience and value due to its own history as a medium and the implied labour of the work.[2] When you think about the history behind painting and all the hard work that goes into creating a realistic piece, it adds a whole new layer of depth and meaning. I am also interested in exploring the relationship between painting and other media. Digital video, with its ephemeral nature and overt realism, offers a different way of seeing to the viewer. When I video myself painting en plein air the viewer can concurrently watch the building being torn down as I build up layers of paint. The process of painting is fascinating to watch in a similar to way to the demolition. And, in this act I find myself complicit in a cyclical world driven by over-consumption and progress.

    Image: Katie Hayne, Benjamin Offices 1 – brutal views, 2022, Oil on board, 59.5 x 42 cm.

    [1] Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth | Cities | The Guardian, 2019,

    [2] Isabelle Graw, The Love of Painting: Genealogy of a Success Medium (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2018), 10 and 25.