In a place of Albert Namatjira Gums, red sand and wide open spaces, Emma Stuart’s landscapes are unusual. Stuart has called this body of work The Blue Hour. Where others have come to the desert and been struck by its majestic ochres, sharp light and hard lines Stuart’s work is more subtle. She writes, “The Blue Hour is the time when we transition from night to day or day to night. The twilight and the dawn. And with it comes a shift in energy and consciousness.” It describes how place resonates with subjectivity and vice versa. What’s immediately striking is the blue palette that dominates her painting and a keen sense of claustrophobia from cropped compositions, which allude to Stuart’s process of working from photographs to recreate scenes she has visited, or more aptly, experienced. Trunks of gums crisscross the field of view and light floods in illuminating buffel grass from undisclosed, almost supernatural, sources. In one painting you are confronted with an uncomfortably close view of a fork in an ancient river gum. It draws you in to contemplative state and there is a heightened sense of intruding on someone’s personal space as limbs become fleshy and nuanced, intimately detailed.
Even Stuart’s seascapes seem to capture this closed-in quality where calm waves and flat horizons are weighted down heavily by tumultuous clouds and the air is thick with an ambient tension. Her landscapes take on a hyper-real quality where trees, waves and clouds become figurative and emotional in their expressions and there is the sense of a deep allegory at play in the imagery. They are emotional landscapes, where colour and light are augmented through the process of painting to suggest the mechanics of what it is to experience place and position one self in it – how we draw insight and spirituality from our environment and imbue it with meaning. As Stuart describes this experience of place, “the deep human history and current cultural complex are just as much a part of this energy as its physical landscape.”
Alexandra Hullah | April 2015
Coordinator | ‘Watch This Space Gallery and Artist Run Initiative’ | Alice Springs
Andrew Gritscher approaches his artistic practice in a way that reflects his formal training in Chinese medicine. Allegorically, in his work and in his medical practice, physical frameworks and parameters are understood and establish form however it is through deeper exploration and reflection that he achieves a truer understanding of what is taking place in the individual and, in relation to the sociological and philosophical messages imbedded in his artistic work, in his response to the world around us. His works are, as with his patients, comprised of a sum of parts rather than individual marks or motifs that are unrelated and independent of each other.
‘Gillian Warden’s latest paintings in Lacuna are a testament to her commitment to the process of painting. Daily, she embarks on a journey in her studio as if from scratch. No mark is sacred. Paint stripper, orbital sander and encroaching opaque paint are used to prune, truncate and shape her previous work. “These paintings are the result of struggle,” she says. But what is revealed by this “beautiful battle” are a series of organic, delicately filigreed shapes and patterns in luminescent colours. Branching forms float, unfurl and delicately wave. Marine gardens and igneous landscapes come to mind.
All shapes allude to the wonder of the natural world. The paintings arrive somewhere between heaven and earth. Interstellar nebulae juxtapose the microscopic. Iridescent wings flutter and settle. Their blood circulations remain anchored to their rocky supports, prevented from final rupture by a superimposed cocoon of downy, opaque over-painting.
Her dedication to the medium of paint, her excitement at revelations and new combinations, is underpinned by a series of exploratory devices. She begins by mixing colours on a large, flat palette from which she creates a monoprint directly on to the board or canvas. Sometimes paper is used to transfer these globular, textured shapes. Later prints are lighter and more delicate; the texture becomes a branching, lacy network.
Nothing is considered immiscible in this alchemist’s cauldron. Colours are combined and layered with translucent overprints of inks or paints, both water soluble and oil based, further brush marks are added or overlaid to reveal or conceal these illusions. The magic is in what we are enabled to see. The multiple experiments of this venerable pursuit are documented in a series of jewel-like small works on board, finely finished and displayed en masse.
These paintings began life during Gillian’s Master of Fine Art at RMIT, entitled Facing Defacing and completed in 2012. The works were part of her process of leaving figuration behind in order to explore a more formless approach to painting. This interim space has been productive and rewarding. Who knows what will happen as the emergent shapes and techniques branch away from their supports. The developments will continue to be worth watching.’
Dr Caroline Thew
MBBS FRACP PhD MVA MFA
‘The world is so mixed up when you consider all the competing desires and aspirations we all have, it is hard to make sense of it all to discover the right path… everything is becoming a commodity, a product, everything assimilated into our main stream middle class western culture as something that everyone needs and must have to attain a sense of happiness and achievement that is some how required for fulfilment.
Shadows of Self is a play on the idea that the artist is almost seen as a shamanistic being. In part it also refers to how buying art allows you to buy in to a being a more spiritually connected person….maybe it does….reality transformed into the spiritual, then transformed in to commodity, almost a piece of soul which conveys or connects us to a more meaningful way of being.
My art is a reflection of my own thought dreams dilemmas an expression of myself as I see the world, tapping into the collective consciousness that is constantly evolving. Through art I am hoping to connect people with, and reassure that in essence we are all the same just reflections of one another, I want to connect people to their feelings, to stimulate an emotive response, an understanding that we as humans are all interconnected, all part of the one earth.’
Rius Carson | August 2015
In Disconnect, Mike Portley has created a series of paintings and artworks that reflect and muse on a shift in human relationships with the environment, technology, each other and history itself. Portley’s own fascination with the changes in contemporary perceptions of the outside world are centred on the media and how personalised stories are manifested through a transformed media machine. It’s the disconnect between this personalised downloaded reality, the analogue world and society’s trajectory that Portley contemplates with both whimsy and alarm.
In Disconnect, Portley has adopted a more figurative approach in addressing the themes in the works. There are a selection of subjects that have been appropriated and reconfigured from social media, video games, art, tourism and advertising. These citations are used to underscore how our lives have been decorated with media manifestations and that much of our social awareness is funnelled in a conglomerated yet distant manner. This idea of conglomeration is referred to in the metaphorical depiction of mindsets relating to the dynamic between the environment and economies. The depleting environment is the elephant in the room offset against associated economic influences and emerging technologies that both threaten and enhance traditional roles in society. Portley questions whether the more we connect digitally, the more we actually disengage from real communication with people and our synchronicity with Earth; or perhaps these symptoms are the growing pains of a new and exciting evolution of human triumph and super connectivity?
Portley’s approach combines lyrical starting points with interpretive expression that is overlaid with detailed subjects connected to each proposition. Portley has always had a propensity for quickly boiling down complex concepts into metaphorical prose and visual tableaux. Disconnect is therefore both an autobiographical comment on transition and a social comment on change and revolution.
John Lennox was a central figure in a circle of artists, collectors and socialites that existed concurrently alongside the narrower, more canonised, academic art establishment of Melbourne during the 1970’s and 1980’s. As is evident in his more decorative work Lennox was a formally trained painter however when he deferred from painting idyllic garden or bush scenes a more existential side that reflected the nature of his eventual isolation came to the fore.
Renewed interest in Lennox’ career comes at a time when academia across the world has once again switched its attention to the place of outsiders in Art History. Lennox was undoubtedly an enigmatic, albeit charismatic, ‘Outsider’. With a combination of exceptional technical skill and a psychological depth in his work and persona, the new curated exhibition Enigma is set to prompt that Lennox and his contribution to Australian painting be looked at anew.
‘The subject of this work is broadly land – land with a long view. Where the eye reaches out as far as it can, to where land meets a sky that is stretching out too. Distance and pause – our minds follow our gaze. These paintings are inspired by a long road trip through the Great Victoria Desert – South Australia and Western Australia and down to the coast of the Bite. But beyond the places themselves the true subject is the expansiveness of nature. My intention is to bring the mental ‘space’ which nature provides, to those of us who spend more time in the cities. I am attempting to draw the viewer into a place where the mind is allowed to wander freely. Though my medium is static, time plays a crucial part. The experience for the viewer is a slowly emerging one. The mysterious quality that overlies some of the paintings is intended as an opening for the viewer to enter a meditative space, as well as forming a relationship with the work as different points of view emerge. In some of the pieces there is initially so little purchase for the eye to engage with, yet slowly the paintings yield depth and more. While creating a sense of quiet, a pause, the paintings are not necessarily peaceful. Most are derived from a desert landscape which is harsh and as liable to throw dust in your face as bring calm. Still a beauty is there, ‘beauty’, that quality which is so out of vogue in the serious discourse of contemporary art. But I suggest we have reached a moment in our human history when we need to acknowledge our absolute dependence upon the natural world, and perhaps the beauty of nature is one crook which can draw us back to this knowledge. The execution of the work involves many layers of paint and some wax applied with a palette knife. I’ve tried to suggest a certain freedom of application, almost a wildness in places, but balanced with a fine attention to detail in others. Through the layering a glow and a depth emerge.’
Alison Binks | 2015
Songs of the Plants is an exhibition of new work by Melbourne based artist Jewels Stevens inspired by a journey, both literal and spiritual, to the steamy Upper Amazon Basin of Peru in early 2014. For several weeks Stevens lived in a remote native Indian community working with plant medicines carefully administrated by Shipibo shamans. Entrusting her guides Stevens cast off her preconceptions and assumptions of the way in which the world works and explored new ways of understanding life, the world around us, and the inner realms that the plants allow access to. As a part of the ritual that accompanies this age old shamanic tradition her Shipibo shaman teachers sang to her to calm her mind and body as she went through these intense transcendental experiences. As Stevens herself describes, these songs – or Icaros – were unlike anything she had heard before and their effect profound in allowing her to push through the physical, mental and emotional transformation she underwent brought on in these sacred ceremonies.“I had never heard such beautiful and yet alien sounds, they were so unique and organic – otherworldly.”
As an artist Stevens has always sought a clarity of vision in her work and through the effect of these plant medicines and the sound of these Icaros she has discovered a clearer reality, a sense of harmony and has tapped in to her unique pattern that the shamans helped to align. Amidst the abundance of life in the rain forests of Peru this new perception of far more abstract concepts and constructs than our western learning teaches us has been transposed, Stevens has shifted her centre and grasped new ways of being that she freely shares in anecdote and in her art.
As with in her 2010 exhibition Jewels of the North that was based on her observations of the landscape of Iceland and the phenomenon of the Northern Lights during a residency in Reykjavik, Stevens continues to draw influence from a multiplicity of sources from across the globe as well as from within.
An Ocean Inside is a dynamic exhibition of new work by Jewels Stevens in which she continues her bold exploration of inner worlds. Stevens’ unique visual language is inherently bound to a process of evolution and in this series we see a new found freedom of expression and a deeper understanding of her creativity. These exhilarating ‘internal landscapes’ are profound in their honesty, their impact immediate and visceral. Stevens allows the paint to flow in a symbiotic dance with her subconscious without holding back or censoring her deepest intuition and raw creativity. This powerful transcendental expression realises itself through vivid explosions of colour and subtle gradations of tone reminiscent of moving through many layers of consciousness, at once deeply mysterious and powerfully revealing.