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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Plan-air elevation



Vanila Netto

Brazil, Australia

14 Mar 1969 -


Born in Salvador, Brazil, Vanila Netto has lived in Sydney since 1987 and has been professionally practicing art since the mid 90s. A lecturer in Photo-media at the University of Sydney, Netto holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (hons) and PhD in Media Arts from the College of Fine Arts, Sydney. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions since 1996 and has held several solo exhibitions, most recently Solace in 2010.

Sydney writer and curator Clare Lewis has noted previously that much of the artist’s work ‘recalls and extends the utopian projections of the modernist dream’ [‘Some futures are more equal than others’ exhibition notes, Breenspace 2008]. In her PhD research, Netto continued this interrogation of modernism exploring as she notes ‘alternate models of living, with an emphasis on the human capacity to act creatively under restriction and limitation’. Certain aspects of these ideas resonate within the ‘Solace’ body of work, from which the two photographs ‘Plan-air elevation’ and ‘Watch-keeping’ are drawn.

‘Watch-keeping’ depicts a building whose intended purpose might be surveillance related. Yet the barren semi-industrial landscape in which it sits, ironically absent of humans or even any form other than itself to observe, lends a sense of redundancy and abandonment. The architectural form simultaneously conjures retro-futuristic sci-fi and Victorian panopticon – unlikely companions but each embodying past utopian visions that have fallen by the wayside.

With its image of a robust knotted tree trunk and title, ‘Plan-air elevation’ alludes to the grandeur of nature and the romance of painting in the great outdoors. Yet the artist’s deliberate misspelling creates a play on words that directs our attention to the wider scene, we note the spindly young trees garrisoned in the background and the ‘wilds of nature’ are revealed as purpose built landscaping.

This relentless re-creation and reordering of environmental elements also recurs in other images from the ‘Solace’ group. While tracing the compulsion of humans to construct, renew, reorder, enact place/purpose and then discard, these images remain optimistic. The drive to replace old with new is analogous to the current of life itself - the same energy which causes trees to shoot new leaves, to shed old bark and limbs in an eternal cycle of creation, decline and regeneration.




Media category


Materials used

pigment inkjet print




49.0 x 48.0 cm sheet; 52.0 x 51.0 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. frame backing board, black ink "... (2010) ... V. NETTO".


Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors' Program 2010


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Vanila Netto

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Solace, Breenspace, Sydney, 20 Aug 2010–18 Sep 2010

Referenced in 1 publication


Editor Unknown (Editor), Artist profile [issue 12], Sydney, 2010, 125 (illus.).