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Artist Journal - Carbon Obscura -Structure Place & Space - 2007 - © Lloyd Godman

Late 20006, I had been approached in by Tony Trembath to be a part of Structure Space and Place - Installations in Nullimbik which was due to be installed in May 2007. Ten artists were to respond to the structure and space of either Montsalvat at Eltham or the tower at Kangaroo Ground. This was a follow up event from the ephemeral sculpture event I took part in with the work "Source" - 2005 - however this event was larger with 10 invited artists.



I was immediately drawn to the greenhouse at Montsalvat. Since the 1970s, I had been fascinated glassed enclosures where plants grow, and had continued to photographed many greenhouses in a wide range of locations from New Zealand, the USA and Australia. Perhaps one day I will compile them into an exhibition.

About the same time I had attended the opening of Eyes Lies and Illusions at ACMI in Melbourne and returned several times to view the fascinating exhibition.

Eyes Lies and Illusions was arranged in seven magical chapters, Eyes, Lies & Illusions explores the art and science of visual perception from the Renaissance to the present day. Developed from the groundbreaking exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery, London, the exhibition includes over 500 objects and images from the astonishing collection of German filmmaker Werner Nekes.

I was especially drawn to two works from the show:


Line describing a cone - by Anthony McCall.

Perhaps the most original performance art film ever created, Anthony McCall's ground-breaking 1973 "Line Describing a Cone" can be summed up pretty basically. McCall uses a projector to create a light beam that runs through a space filled with smoke. His 30 minute film begins with solid black; soon a single point appears, causing a shaft of light to be emitted across the room. Finally, the dot builds, becoming a line, than an arc, then semi-circle, before finally being completed as a circle projected on a black. This process takes about 30 minutes. When finished, the light beam emitted from the projector, through the black film with circle drawn upon it, shown across a smokey room, appears to be in the shape of a cone with tip at projector's lens and base at the wall on which the light beam is projected. (Once the work was completed, I contacted Anthony to inform him of the reference to his work)


The other work, was an anonymous piece from 1720 "Interior at China - back-lit transparency on tissue paper from a copperplate etching with perforations. While light illuminated the transparent material, it also penetrated to small openings cut into the material and projected outwards into the exhibition space.

The obvious approach appeared to be filling the greenhouse with plants, but I decided to darken the entire space and let sunlight penetrate through a series of pinholes that drew a landscape image of trees. I had earlier worked with a darkened space, plants and light in the work enlighten.


Searching for the right material to darken the space, I chanced upon 1000 sheets of carbon paper at a recycle shop for $2. Not only would this reference the carbon (charcoal) from the Equivalence series, and carry a reference to carbon in the atmosphere, but it was a an opaque material.


Greenhouse at MontsalvatGreenhouse at Montsalvat identified as the instalklation site for the Carbon Obscura work - Nov 2006

The carbon paper was first glued onto a stronger material, builders insulation paper, which was a very time consuming process.


As the carbon paper was too fragile to construct a large screen to cover the glass of the greenhouse I looked to fix it to a more stable material. The first step in creating the work involved constructing a series of wooden frames to fix this material to that fitted into the various areas of the greenhouse. There were 12 sections in total - 4 for the side walls, 4 for the roof, 2 for the end wall, 1 for the door and another for the window next to the door.

Once these had been constructed I photographed the sections from the same camera position and constructed a scaled design of the walls in photoshop to experi


Lloyd Godman gluing dow the carbon paper onto an insulation backing for Carbon Obscura - April 2007

The next phase involved gluing hundreds of sheets of carbon paper down onto a base of insulation paper. I experimented with a wide range of glues - the one that worked best was a sinple glue stick. This was a tedious task and took mnay hours of work - fortunately I was able to enlist some help.


Insulation sheet with a section of carbon paper glued down - April 2007

Once the carbon paper was fixed to the insulation paper and this was guled to a supporting frame, a landscape of trees was created on the carbon paper by pricking through the material with a small nail

Lloyd Godman working on Carbon Obscura - April 2007 - pricking thousands of tiny holes to create a landscape image.

Once the carbon paper was fixed, a landscape of trees was created on the carbon paper by pricking through the material with a small nail.  

Lloyd Godman working on Carbon Obscura - April 2007

Once the carbon paper was fixed, a landscape of trees was created on the carbon paper by pricking through the material with a small nail. As I engaged in this I also carried out some experiments with the fog generator to gain an idea how the light would interact with the fog.  

Lloyd Godman working on Carbon Obscura - April 2007



While I had done much study of CO2 - the carbon cycle, global warming and the greenhouse effect, I had also become aware of a contradiction - global dimming where suspended black carbon particles in the atmosphere restrict the light falling on the surface of the earth.

Global dimming

In this work I looked to - black out the entire space of the greenhouse with sheets of carbon paper and make a landscape image via thousands of tiny pinholes that project onto vapor which is triggered by the audience as they enter the space. It is like making thousands of tiny pinhole cameras -


The use of carbon was also used a continuation of from "Equivalence" a recent series of works using a combination of pigment prints with charcoal drawings.

Early in 2007 I began constructing the work.

Construction of the work


Monday 13 May 2007

The work looks more interesting the more time I spend there!

I was down at the greenhouse work - Carbon Obscura - today for a press meeting and the sun was fully out - each pin hole projected a tiny image onto the table inside the greenhouse of the trees outside sharp enough to see what was happening. The wind was blowing and you could see the same trees in each pinhole moving - hundreds of focused projections - quite amazing, very Fox Talbot like. The circles of confusion were all static but the image inside each was moving.

As the sun traversed across the sky the combined projections shifted and played across the table in a sympathetic angle. It was similar to the shadow from the "Summer Solstice" work I had engaged in at "Chrystalls Beach" in 1999 where I tracked the shadow of a large rock for the duration of the day. This movement of of a projected image caused by the movement of the san was also evident in "Planet IV", 2006

At night the light could be turned on which required a different viewpoint, but also gave the work an altered aesthetic and meaning. I did a sequence of photographs with the transition from daylight to darkness.

From the Carbon Obscura at Motsalvat, the opportunity arose to install a similar work - Impressions de Lumière - from an artist in residency at L'Arbre de Vie / Chateau de Blacons, France - 2007 - View work from the residency >>> - View Carbon Obscura >>> at L'Arbre de Vie / Chateau de Blacons