Terra habitatur III
Terra habitatur IV
Terra habitatur honours the rich cultural history of first nations undermined by colonisation, threatening their erasure. The term proclaims existence, identity and life in the face of its denial through historical categorisation as ‘terra nullius:’ land null of life, deemed to be colonisable and free for the taking.
Australia was classified as a ‘terra nullius’ by the British prior to their invasion and colonisation. This negation of the very existence of Indigenous Australians casts long shadows and has a legacy through cultural forgetfulness in the dominant Australian populace to this day.
As an Australian dual citizen with Hispanic and indigenous Mesoamerican heritage, Arvilla recognised a familiar history of cultural erasure to that of his birth country Costa Rica, as the diverse first nations of the Americas have experienced similar post-colonial processes of exploitation and neglect.
Arvilla paints abstracted landscapes in this series of works ― landscapes veiled through grids of cultural perception and distanced through a visual haze. Arvilla’s grids meld various histories and recall Pointillist Impressionism, the motif of the dot in Indigenous Australian art, and the Western canon’s technique of ‘squaring-up’ images for enlargement and reproduction. The grids also call to mind the process of plotting a landscape through surveying; a cartographic technique of exploration and colonisation via rationalisation. Throughout the series, longer, linear brushstrokes allude to the Mesoamerican story of the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl.
Arvilla has used natural pigments from the earth to decipher its form. Working intuitively in a painterly, gestural style, Arvilla builds layer upon layer and scratches passages away, before encasing each scene within the surface grid patterns.
Terra habitatur remembers the past and pays tribute to the diverse mix of cultures which make-up our present and our future.