As I get my head around the concept of having this blog, I remain conflicted about aspects of it… What exactly should a blog be? They are such individual things. Are they there simply for the edification of the creator or the audience? Are they a little of both? Where does the fine line between egotistical opinion pushing and mindless drivel lie? I know that I can talk and talk and talk, and by extension, write and write and write. But what “voice” do I use? Do I educate? To some that may be interesting, to others, though, does it get self serving and boring? Do I simply put up what I like and say “hey look at this”? I hope to try and do a bit of both. Just hope I get the balance right. I really do.
So a little diversion from the current work on still life that I am developing and mulling over and obsessing about! I know that the one thing I do want to do is to put up a blurb on the exhibitions I have been to see lately. And hence this post is just a little one touching briefly on my thoughts about why I love art, but more specifically why I love art about nature.
I don’t think I always started out liking art. A vague sense of unease and depression surrounds memories of visiting the NSW Art Gallery and then the National Gallery when I was younger. A sense of brown colonialism and still lifes with tones that brought you down, and landscapes which I knew from travelling with my dad, but which seemed so much more vibrant in life than on paper or canvas.
As I got older my primary memory is of abstract art – vicious, in your face colours and lines, scribbles and scratches that seemed to me to signify nothing apart from the attempt to call themselves art. I loved words, and I loved the Australian bush. But I don’t think I loved art. Yet now I do. I still struggle with some modern art, and though I now understand better the aims of expressionism, abstract art and contemporary post modernist works (and indeed am strongly influenced by them), sometimes I think there are artists out there though who do the scribbles and the in your face for the sake of it. Not for meaning. How easy it can be to not see the difference.
Here’s a couple of examples from an artist whose work I saw last year, and it blew me away. So hard to comprehend in the flat dimension of screen replication, it loses the incredible depth and visceral jagged cuts – ridges and raises, textures and cracks. All of which go together with the pigment to make the fabulous artworks of Anthony O’Carroll:
Traditional landscape continues to leave me cold. I can appreciate the skill and endeavour and the realism, but my heart does not sing. That said, there are landscapes that do make my heart sing – frequently abstract, frequently filled with colour and line and form. Sometimes mysterious and asking of us questions to which we may not know the answer. Sometimes so subtle there is almost nothing there – Think the wonderful mysteries of a Murray Frederick’s, abstract, imbued with deep amazing colours – abstract and alien, yet still so much of this planet:
Topophilia Series, Murray Fredericks
Ice Sheet, Murray Fredericks
Salt 271, Murray Fredericks
Salt 154, Murray Fredericks
Think also of the simplicity of a black and white Michael Kenna snowscape, shrouded, apparently timeless and ancient, full of negative space that manages to speak so much to us:
Huangshan Mountains, Michael Kenna
Forest Edge Hokaido, Michael Kenna
Sunflowers, Michael Kenna
When my words left me – going forever into a nowhere that I refer to as my “nothing” (a devoted reference to that childhood favourite, the Never Ending Story} there was emptiness. Then my (now) husband bought me a camera. Those who know me, know this story…
Slowly, over a long period of time, the camera became my words again… I created, but instead, now I spoke with images, and with Photoshop (I love using digitial tools to make my art as I want it – I can’t really wield a paint brush, but I know a lot of people who paint who can’t do what I do with Photoshop, even after study – everything’s a skill, make no mistake, even those who want to belittle the world of digital art. It takes more than a program to make something worth looking at. Just saying. For those who quibble about the validity of art made using Photoshop as a tool).
My first creations were macros. Simple ones. Just getting as close to whatever I saw (mostly flowers, trees and rocks) and seeing what they looked like in their hidden details. Suddenly through a macro lens I loved nature again. I loved the insects and the flowers and the trees. Art about nature talks to me now, which is why I wanted to show this amazing, vibrant artist, whose exhibition Near and Far I saw as part of the Art at Night program this year. His name is Tim Maguire, and his art is bright, immediate and larger than life.
Why do I love it so much? Because it is macro and still life lived large – unbelievably large. He has taken poppies, which can sit gently in the palms of your hands and blow away in the wind, and he has turned them into things of monumental beauty.
From a distance they are sharp, unbelievable colours, and shapes. They are clearly and distinctly flowers. On their own, petals in detail magnified , or together in fields. And yet… Yet, walk up close to them, and look again… His technique has abstracted them, he has “control splashed” them with solvents, an effect as if rain has come and filled them with raindrops which have chaotically dripped down as the sun dried them into stains of colour:
So too his light box works are mysterious, as if entering magical worlds. Sadly they do lose that eerie silhouette of back lit beauty when reproduced here on a screen. The sense of being drawn into the murky world of light on water, of trees and pink toned sky, that does not quite come through. Which is such a shame, for they were things of wonder, which at a first glance you might dismiss as a little touch of plastic psychedelia, but which with every new look you took, catch you in, just a bit more.
As Tim Maguire says of this work:
“Both the still life based paintings and the light box landscapes in this exhibition incorporate (my own) photographic sources, techniques of mechanical reproduction and digital technology, and deliberate painterly description undermined by imperfectly controlled erasure through splashed solvents. The resulting objects are like push-me-pull-yous, heading in two directions at once, aspiring to coherent representations of reality while breaking down into abstract gestures and random marks…”
If you are as intrigued and warmed in the heart as I have been by these bright and vibrant works of nature, read and see more, with the publication for this exhibition: