Gabba Hotel Demolition, Thiess Art Prize Statement, 2004

Benjamin Werner visited the site of the Woolloongabba Hotel over the course of its recent demolition to capture and record images that exude a Gothic, operatic sensibility. Bathed in velvety shadow and overtones of film noir, Werner’s work is fuelled by a subject that neatly fit his studies of ‘the sublime’. He saw in the impending destruction of the historical building an awe-inspiring moment out of the ordinary, one where he could act out the role of witness amid eerie darkness and invoke particular emotions in the viewer by painterly distortion and obscurity. Blank banners carry unknown messages, red lights signify the end of the road, and the finger of an excavator pokes through the stage-like light to reveal a mise en scene of urban renewal. With a nod to the 18th century philosopher Burke, Werner’s work finds precedents closer to home and this time in Louise Hearman and photographer Bill Henson.

Demolition 1, Gabba Hotel Oil on canvas 650 x 1100mm 2004

Simon Wright