Thunderhead at The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Until 19 April

The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) is hosting a leading figure in contemporary Australian video and performance, Tina Havelock Stevens. Havelock Stevens brings a powerful sense of artistic vision to her multi-sensory exhibition, ‘Thunderhead’. This exhibition offers a video work accompanied by improvised sound scores.

Tina Havelock Stevens. Photo by Bo Wong. 

The artist’s experience as a drummer and documentary filmmaker comes through as she synthesises visual and aural mediums in a way that engulfs viewers. There is a feeling throughout ‘Thunderhead’ of falling forward into an image while you’re being pushed from behind by steadily rolling sounds.

‘Thunderhead’ is a single piece of footage that Havelock Stevens captured while driving along Highway 54 in Texas. It loops through skies and mountain ranges dominated by deep greys, imposing cloud forms, empty and abandoned spaces, over and over. It is an infinite series of images causing us to draw deep breaths as the calm before the storm seems to weigh heavier with each new cycle. 

The artist explains the footage was captured after “going the wrong way, then getting on the right track”. Her outlook on getting lost as a way to be somewhere that’s right for you feels close to the heart of this project as she invites viewers to sink into the art, get turned around a little, and feel more full as a result.

The ‘Thunderhead’ video is accompanied by a guitar and drum soundscape composed and recorded by Havelock Stevens and long-time collaborator, composer Liberty Kerr. With Kerr on guitar and Havelock Stevens on drums, the artist successfully creates an atmospheric, wandering, undulating work that feels easy to relate to perhaps because there is no fixed point of entry.

The concept of a continuous loop gives each viewer their own beginning and end. Producing this as a personalised journey through landscape and soundscape seems to be a carefully considered choice by the artist, although in the moment it feels naturally occurring. She says of the exhibition, “I like that an audience can share an experience but have multiple perspectives.”

Occupying PICA’s central gallery space, ‘Thunderhead’ evokes a sense of uncertainty that is timely in relation to the catastrophic unpredictability of the Australian climate in our recent history. The lack of power and lack of insight we have into the natural world is reflected through the unstoppable forward-momentum of Havelock Stevens’ work.

This exhibition will roll on at PICA until Sunday 19th April, opening every Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 5pm.