At an exhibition titled Mountain + Water you expect to be confronted with landscape paintings. Yet there is a glaring absence of natural features in Gwen van Embden’s exhibition at the AVA gallery. Well, almost. There is an eponymous series of small paintings in which nature can be detected; trees and a gently curved horizon is suggested. However, these features are blurred, on the verge of collapsing into abstract and unknown forms. They are an ideal introduction to the rest of the exhibition, which consists of large abstract paintings where landscape settings are withheld, obscured or obliterated. Van Embden does not lack the technique or abilities to paint landscapes; the sense of order and ideology required to render it is not available to her — or society. The current sociopolitical conditions, locally and abroad, are so uncertain, marked by such chaos, disorder and violence that she is unable to trot out a landscape — it would be a deception. Van Embden takes her cue from a Ch...

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