A Good Painting Works Anywhere

Detail: Ann Thomson

Detail: Ann Thomson

“Once or twice in my student days I was known to say, de Kooning, can you please leave my studio now!” Ann Thomson Monograph 2012.

I think at some point in art school we were discussing art made for living rooms. I had bought a small painting and it didn’t matter where it was hung, it worked. It was a good painting. The same applies for Ann Thomson. Her exhibition in the Drill Hall at ANU last year had the same affect on me as the one in the National Art School in Sydney. Her work is fabulous.  This exhibition was titled Ann Thomson & Contemporaries so it had even more bang for the buck. The exhibition was spread over two floors of the magnificent old National Art School.

 

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The lower level comprising teachers and contemporaries gave a clue as to the vibe of art during her time as a student and teacher and provided an understanding of the strength in her work.  Moving upstairs, the old building provided a lofty open space large enough to take her slashes of paint and freedom of marks.

 

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Light, Space, Time and a Wombat Hole

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Sometimes the order of exhibitions matter. Your head is in a space, ready for the onslaught. This time there was no plan as to who would be first.

Ann Thomson (detail)

Ann Thomson (detail)

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Ann Thomson’s exhibition Freehand was even higher than the expectations. Her works are full, yet light. Marks, space and colour give each other time. There is a lustfulness in the way she paints -a love of the space she creates by the marks with her body. It is not painting, it is not composing, it is absorption.

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The nearby James Turrell Retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra had a naked art night (no, I didn’t like the thought of bending over to put on the booties). The participants absorbed the light into their flesh. The Turrell show was a world away from paint using space, light and dark.

The show made me envious, why do I need a studio full of brushes and paint? A day earlier I was inspired by Ann Thomson’s work, it had made me want to paint again but the stripped down use of light as a material seemed to make sense. Marks seemed inconsequential.

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In between there were glimpses of Sidney Nolan, the Riverbend series at the Drill Hall ANU,  an assortment at the Canberra Museum and Gallery and the Kelly series at the NGA. Somehow his works still resonated. There was the myth of place, I wasn’t in the desert creating huge skyspaces and I wasn’t in a studio surrounded by dripping paintings on white walls. I am caught in time, like Ned painted into a story of what my life has become, headfirst down a wombat hole.

Policeman in a wombat hole 1946 Sidney Nolan

Policeman in a wombat hole 1946 Sidney Nolan