James Darling
Artist Statement


It was a cloudless, high-summer’s day when Lesley and I, following the neighbouring farmer’s instructions, found our way in the ute to the edge of Lake Hawdon South, two ranges inland from the coast of South Australia between Beachport and Robe.

An ecologist had told us that we would find thrombolites, the rare rock-like microbial structures which, when they emerge from beneath water, photosynthesize. Thrombolites and stromatolites are both microbialites whose structures colonize lake floors and which, over billions of years, supplied the first large quantities of oxygen to the atmosphere of our planet.

As we waded into the shallow water towards the thrombolites, water birds in their thousands took to the air, screeching and squawking as they wheeled around us – before settling at a distance.

The sky grew quiet. Lake Hawdon South was a vast, flat, ethereal, other-worldly environment: timeless and endless.  Air and water merged as if without demarcation. That visit set us on a trail to the edge of conception. We learnt that evidence was hard to come by. We learnt that microbialites were the only form of life inhabiting the planet for almost three billion years. What was our planet three billion years ago? How could a connection be established between then and now? How could that relationship find expression, not as nature study, but as art? This exhibition is about conception, where fragments and the imagination reside. Living Rocks celebrates the physical presence of thrombolites. It celebrates microbial life. Looking back and looking forward, the concept of microbialites as the “disaster-recovery” or default ecosystem of our planet, and perhaps of many others, speaks of genesis and genius.

At its core, Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe is a memory of our origin and a prophesy of our future.