El Dorado Springs is an architectural fantasy by Melbourne photomedia and installation artist Valerie Sparks. It takes its panoramic mural form and inspiration from an 1849 French multi-panel woodblock wallpaper that combined images from America, Europe, Asia and Africa (the National Gallery's 1805 Dufour et Cie wallpaper was a model for such later nineteenth-century productions).
Sparks uses the latest digital imaging techniques to place Asian monuments and figures of worship with both European and Asian heritage buildings from present day Melbourne, including the Russian Orthodox Church in East Brunswick and Linh Son Buddhist Temple in Reservoir. These are lifted out of time and place to reside peacefully along the banks of a mysterious misty river lined by Australian native trees and lush exotic flora, against a backdrop of the Zagros Mountains. The buildings and motifs were selected as references to the generations of migrants and cultural influences that make up present day Victoria and point to very contemporary issues of migration. Today, Australia is a blended society, and the beauty and tranquility of the image gives hope that peaceful coexistence is an achievable state.
Sparks draws on her degree in Pacific Studies and anthropology to make connections between globalisation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and world political and environmental issues of the early twenty-first century. She sees her use of digital montage as a form of documentary practice, commenting that her hyperreal photography 'allows us to create images that are not visually available to us in the physical spaces we live in but perhaps more accurately represent the interconnected spaces and complex relationships of contemporary global systems'.
in artonview, issue 64, summer 2010