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

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Cows Make the Best Art Critics

It began with cows at Bundanon.  The track from the river back to the studio through the paddocks.  I would spend hours not talking with anyone, the cows would look intent, like they had something to say so I asked.  The wombats weren’t good art critics. They would amble hurriedly away or disappear down the hole looking disappointed at my efforts.  Their ability to put poo on a rock summed it up – they were sculptors and looked at my work as being too flat. Maybe they’re right.

Possums have given me mixed messages -they are like the art teachers who can’t help but put a mark on your work, not that I am opposed to that  -there has been evidence of nibbling, delicate foortprints in charcoal and the curl of a tail disappearing in the rafters when I turn the key.

A scene in Frida a movie on the life of Frida Kahlo showed Diego Rivera’s dog pissing on a canvas “he’s always my best critic”. Dogs are upfront. Cows chew their cud and mull it over.  They throw the onus back to me as the painter -“Fix it, it’s that simple”

Rainbows over Pulpit Rock

Returning to Bundanon after 5 years was like going home. I’m comfortable in that landscape, just paint me in. I didn’t feel the need to paint, draw, photograph-just to breathe. Jane unrolled the scroll and created an ink-river across the stark white paper in Whiteley movements, bending and dipping. I watched the weather bend and dip in synchronicity with Jane’s brush -sun, rain, mist and a rainbow over Pulpit Rock. The walk back to the homestead wound through wombat-holed tracks watched by a sleepy mob of kangaroos, black suspicious cows and ignored by intently grazing buffalo wombats.  There is no other place in the world like it and no other place I would rather be.

Cows Make the Best Art Critics

It began with cows at Bundanon.  The track from the river back to the studio through the paddocks.  I would spend hours not talking with anyone, the cows would look intent, like they had something to say so I asked.  The wombats weren’t good art critics. They would amble hurriedly away or disappear down the hole looking disappointed at my efforts.  Their ability to put poo on a rock summed it up – they were sculptors and looked at my work as being too flat. Maybe they’re right.

Possums have given me mixed messages -they are like the art teachers who can’t help but put a mark on your work, not that I am opposed to that  -there has been evidence of nibbling, delicate foortprints in charcoal and the curl of a tail disappearing in the rafters when I turn the key.

A scene in Frida a movie on the life of Frida Kahlo showed Diego Rivera’s dog pissing on a canvas “he’s always my best critic”. Dogs are upfront. Cows chew their cud and mull it over.  They throw the onus back to me as the painter -“Fix it, it’s that simple”