Ashley FrostMosman - Through the Bush
6 February - 10 March 2018
A return to a familiar place yields rich results in light and movement for ASHLEY FROST.
From autumn through to early spring this year ASHLEY FROST spent time on Mosman shore reflecting and responding to the beauty of the iconic view that has drawn many painters to its surrounds including Arthur Streeton. In this series FROST references Streeton’s panoramic format to explore the transition of light across the horizontal plane.
FROST attended school close by to the Mosman waterfront at Milsons Point. He remembers compulsively sketching the Opera House during his Latin classes, and at 15 travelled on the Mosman Bay ferry to his first job in Sydney’s CBD. Since then he has been painting Sydney Harbour continuously throughout his career.
During his time FROST created a number of studies including around the Mosman artist camps of Sirus Cove. From his time there he writes, “The wonderfully preserved bush around the camps takes on an almost mystical quality in the late afternoon light. The low sunlight of a winter afternoon, while fleeting, can illuminate large sections of the bush, colouring swathes of trees, forest floor and rocks.”
This focused attention to the movement of light at dusk and dawn captures the signature Australian light at its most ephemeral. The movement of light reflected between the sky and the sea is almost blurred at these in-between hours. From the shore to the sea, FROST pushes his practice to play between vistas of the harbour, and his up close, encounters with the chaotic movement of the bush and scrub. There is an excitement to the bush studies, created in situ, the movement of light, line and tone exude an intensity of the artist’s encounter.
Merran Esson, Judy Holding & Denese OatesShades of Green and Blue
13 March - 14 April 2018
Artists MERRAN ESSON, JUDY HOLDING and DENESE OATES draw inspiration from the palette of nature, distilling the human experience of the land to create works that form a tribute to its many shades.
MERRAN ESSON’s investigation into ceramic vessels began with the container not just as a practical device but also as a structure. Drawing from her rural upbringing on the land, ESSON explores the vessel in relation to man-made catchments such as tanks and dams, as well as naturally occurring catchments such as basin shaped areas and drainage networks in nature. Alongside her works that draw reference to tanks and corrugated iron, ESSON’s latest elegant, bulbous forms defy notions of form and weight, and in their perforated organic forms reject the implied function of vessels.
Inspired by her time in the bush JUDY HOLDING celebrates Australian Indigenous cultures and their intrinsic connection to the land. Employing specific cultural symbols – including the Australian Eucalypt and native birds such as the “cocky” – HOLDING’s practice comments upon the complex history of settler and Indigenous cultures in Australia, and their contrasting relationships with the land. Her sculptures contrast abstract modern textures and shapes with natural forms. Combining natural forms with bold injections of colour - cool purples, bold orange tones and cobalt blue – HOLDING’s playful works spark conversations about Australia’s indeterminate ecological future.
Working with green and copper hues, DENESE OATES transforms ordinary copper wire into inspired and carefully crafted natural forms that are full of undulating movement and rhythmic lines. From her copper wall sculptures that take the form of painterly trees and vines, to her ‘topiary sculptures’ that train verdigris copper vines into boulders and rotund forms, OATES’ sculptures remind us of nature’s remarkable capacity to regenerate, proliferate and multiply.
In their ceramics, sculptures and wall pieces ESSON, HOLDING AND OATES branch out, teasing the imagination to extend our human understanding of the natural world and our relationship to it.
17 April - 19 May 2018
This year marks 50 years since The Field 1968, an exhibition in which JANET DAWSON, a leading abstract and figurative painter, was one of only three female artists selected to take part. And as the National Gallery marks this milestone with The Field Revisited it seems fitting to survey the resonate work of DAWSON.
Heralding the survey, Shadows no.2 (1974) is hard to resist. It is magnetic in the way that it pulses with DAWSON’s adept colour play, creating depth and optical movement.
The significant shifts of focus and examination in the subject matter of DAWSON’s work over the last forty-six years parallel her life in the bush. Shadow Play no.2 was created the same year as her initial move from the city to ‘Scribble Rock’ near Binalong in 1974. Living within nature, as Deborah Edward’s outlines, scintillated DAWSON’s vision and through this spatial ambiguity embraced more fertile metaphoric ground.[i] For DAWSON her expansive colour paintings mapped her responses to the bush – such as the spiralling bark in opposition to the form of the gums – noting that what she perceived in nature reinforced the ways in which she had explored oppositional relationships of form, space, and light.
Moving in leaps and bounds we reach DAWSON’s work from the nineties and what occupies her eye in the present. Her smaller still life and landscapes continue her exploration of the processes of perception. Created after DAWSON moved to a small cottage in nearby Binalong, her pastel works explored the shift in scale and proportion of the trees. This ongoing desire to explore and expose the resonance of a place emerges in her most recent works of the coastal landscape and skies in Southern Victoria where she now lives.
Whether figurative or abstract, DAWSON’s focus is to enquire and deconstruct the world around her. What was once a cabbage or an eggshell is evaluated by DAWSON and reconstructed. Cut-half Green Cabbage with Leaves I showcases a luminous cabbage on its paper stage. Boldly lit up from the swirling darkness it is supported by a chorus of dancing lines that resonate with the surrounding energy as perceived by DAWSON. Returned to over a period of seven years, in her work DAWSON moves cyclically, seemingly unfazed by the passing of time.
This examination of the structures of the visual world, the real and unreal connects DAWSON’s abstract and figurative work. As the artist states, “some artists have a courageous acceptance of how things look and accept the retinal image. I can’t do that – I have to express what I know.”
[i] Deborah Edwards, “Janet Dawson: On Curiosity, Ambiguity and Attachment”, Janet Dawson Survey 1953 - 2006, 38.
Viola DominelloRecent Works
22 May - 9 June 2018
22 May – 9 June 2018
Opening Saturday 26 May, 3 - 5 pm
Attention to the shifting and shimmering movement of Australian light creates works of lyrical abstraction in VIOLA DOMINELLO’s recent paintings of Sydney’s iconic shorelines.
Throughout her practice DOMINELLO has explored coastal landscapes ranging from the soft Italian light and landscape of Venice to the ragged and dry coastline of Sydney. What remains consistent between these different landscapes is her exploration of light. In her most recent works of Mosman’s shoreline and scenes of the Hawkesbury, DOMINELLO’s palette exudes the heat of the changing Australian light.
In her Mosman works DOMINELLO specifically responded to the epic history of Australian landscape painting. Throughout 2016 and 2017 she was invited to explore and respond to the artists’ camps along Mosman’s foreshore, as part of the Bush to Bay exhibition at Mosman Art Gallery. Framed by Tom Roberts’ Mosman’s Bay 1894, and the landscapes of Arthur Streeton and Sydney Long, DOMINELLO’s works speak of the immediacy of her encounter, but also the legacy of works that came before.
Of the challenges of responding to the unique Australian coastlines she writes, “I have grappled with the contradictions of the primal quality of the bush coastline in particular the open space of the harbour and the enclosed world of the bush. The massive sandstone boulders, the textured tree trunks with their scraggy, spiky foliage rising out of watery grounds around Sirius Cove form a shimmering, reflective contrast to the liquidity of the water.”
The dance of light between the bush and water and their contrasting textures takes centre stage in DOMINELLO’s works. In her play with tone and colour light moves seamlessly between water and land, with the reflections off the water lighting up the landscape. Whether it is in the paintings of Mosman’s foreshore, or scenes from around the Hawkesbury where she resides, DOMINELLO deftly captures the flux and illumination of light, capturing unique moments in these places of tidal change.
In 2005 Viola Dominello received her Master of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. Prior to this she studied at the University of Foreigners Siena (Italy), Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia (Italy), New York University (USA), Julian Ashton School of Art, Hornsby Technical College and the City Art Institute. Dominello was awarded a Borsa di Studio Scholarship from the Italian government on two occasions (1999 & 2003) and she also received an Assistant Fellowship from Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia, Italy (2000). Dominello received the Wynne Trustees Watercolour Prize in 2010, 2012 and 2015. Dominello's work is represented in many collections.
Deirdre Bean, Tanya Chaitow, Rod Holdaway, Di HoldsworthGroup Show
12 June - 7 July 2018
Personal memories and histories of a place, person or event can shift and warp with the passing of time. Artists DEIRDRE BEAN, ROD HOLDAWAY, DI HOLDSWORTH AND TANYA CHAITOW each explore this human process of looking back and recounting – playing with familiar or unfamiliar narratives to create memory-laden works.
DI HOLDSWORTH revels in the reconstruction of histories and cultural narratives in her musical assemblages. Working with found objects, she matches space cowboys with Greek Minotaurs and saucy dancers to create fantastical responses to the iconic 1969 Moon Landing.
Wind your way through TANYA CHAITOW’s uncanny depictions of historic genre paintings, as she places ghostly figures within their iconic settings. Reimagined, the delicate vignettes entwine history with CHAITOW’s signature floral motifs and whimsical characters.
Looking back, ROD HOLDAWAY returns to his time in Paris and equates these memories to his life in inner-Sydney. The shifting figures and lighter tones create a lyrical and ephemeral dreamscape that speaks of the passing of time.
DEIRDRE BEAN composes delicate homages to stories in her everyday life. Poised flowers and Chinese inspired ceramics appear carefully balanced yet look closely as BEAN distils the narratives that fill her everyday. From her neighbour’s cat that walks under her strelitzia everyday to the wattlebirds that leave droppings on her car– BEAN’s still lives are rich with narrative and wit.
Explore the exhibition as each artist visually pull at the threads of personal memories and human histories, and then follow as they rethread the past in unexpected ways.
Steve LopesImpossible Find
10 July - 4 August 2018
In Impossible Find STEVE LOPES acts as lens, revealing a world of transitory figures, travellers and storytellers who are searching for the unknown.
Drawing from the experiences of his extensive travels, LOPES situates figures within landscapes at points of encounter and transition. Whilst the paintings depict the landscapes of his travels, the figures are imagined, (dis)placed within the composition in hindsight. Selected by LOPES, each figure is a personality that makes up the complex narrative of the traveller figure.
In situating figures approaching towns, traversing through rural landscapes or city streets, the compositions depict people who are unencumbered and undefined by borders or places – free from the restraints of modern institutions. Enhancing the transitory nature of this existence, the deft, fluid movement of LOPES’ brushstrokes creates landscapes that recede and shift in time, place and their realism.
Yet in this transient state there is promise of freedom from the restraints and structures of the everyday. Each work is underlined by questions of what the future holds for these figures – could these places be what they are they looking for? Or is it an impossible find?
Impossible Find presents a universal narrative of people at a threshold, a tipping point, boldly carving out a space in new worlds, in their own terms.
STEVE LOPES was recently awarded the 2018 Gallipoli Art Prize. He travelled to the former battlefields of the Western Front in France and Belgium in 2017 with 10 other well-known Australian artists and was invited to exhibit works in the touring exhibition Salient – Contemporary artists at the Western Front. His work is represented in major public and private collections nationally and internationally.
7 August - 1 September 2018
“I am at work on the second vol. of the Cirripedia, of which creatures I am wonderfully tired: I hate a Barnacle as no man ever did before, not even a Sailor in a slow sailing ship. “
Charles Darwin letter to William Fox, 24 October 1852
Charles Darwin’s yet impassioned letter to William Fox in 1852 was six years into an eight-year obsession of collecting, dissecting and classifying every known barnacle – living and fossil. By 1854 Darwin finally published, stating that over millions of years there had been hundreds of barnacle adaptations from a common ancestor. The small shell was a critical turning point for the ground-breaking publication On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection in 1859.
From her discovery of the acorn barnacle on the NSW south coast, ANNABEL BUTLER curiously dissects the crater like structure, creating a whole series of works in ceramics, constructions, watercolour and oils dedicated to the ancient shells that defined our understanding of the natural world.
A continuation of her exploration of NSW coastline, BUTLER brings the light and colour of the macro landscape into the micro examination of the barnacle within it. Like Darwin there is an obsessive process to the way BUTLER studies and deconstructs the curious form of the barnacle in a myriad of ways. The playful ceramics can be seen as sculptural sketches, as she explores the barnacle in its fullest sense.
Moving seamlessly between oil, screen-printing and watercolour BUTLER deftly deconstructs the barnacle, manipulating tone, colour and repetition until the vessel is reduced to its formalist qualities. What was once a barnacle is distilled and simplified into a series of fragmented still life. An exhibition of exploration and study, this intensive series of the barnacle shares camaraderie with Darwin as BUTLER draws from the micro to express her avid encounter with the coast.
Annabel Butler has exhibited extensively in Australia, as well as internationally in New York and across Europe. Her work features in a number of private and public collections in Australia.
Richard Spoehr & Prue VenablesNew Work
4 September - 6 October 2018
Attracted to essential forms, RICHARD SPOEHR imbues functional everyday items with a delicate simplicity. Working with porcelain and clay, SPOEHR creates beautifully thrown bowls, vases, jugs and cups whose symmetry is offset by the delightful imperfections of dripping edges, speckles and colour graduations. His fine high-fired porcelain have a soft colour palette from whites and clear ash glazes to recent additions of yellows and blues.
However do not think these are quickly "thrown together" forms. Under SPOEHR's eye for curve and balance of space, each piece catches the light and grows with its changing shadow. In each work SPOEHR explores the potential of form, some are delicate and seamless in their smooth surface, whilst others are imbued with a solidity of form and weight. Carefully considered, there is a quiet stillness within each of SPOEHR's works that awaits engagement. The classic, balanced silhouette of each bowl and cup in this series of work is intrinsic to his endeavour for beauty.
There is an alluring contrast between the delicate, light and translucent quality of RICHARD SPOEHR’s pieces and the dark rich satiny glazes of some of PRUE VENABLES’ vessels. Her works reveal more modernist influences, with a hint of the industrial. There is a gentle synchronicity in SPOEHR and VENABLES’ work as they strive for a simple, quiet aesthetic.
Moving away from ceramics that are overtly ornamental, PRUE VENABLES works with forms that refrain from decoration. Their appeal comes from their deceptively simple forms and the purity and luminosity of their glazes. Her pieces are often displayed in pairings or small groups, revealing the rhythmic and spatial relationships between them.
Both RICHARD SPOEHR and PRUE VENABLES approach their ceramic practice with a focus on being equally driven by aesthetics function. These clean and meticulous objects offer room for contemplation. They each create pieces that celebrate domestic forms and their potential to bring joy and rich human connection in their daily appreciation.
9 October - 3 November 2018
TREVOR WEEKES presents SUBLIME, an exhibition that engages with the age-old question – what is beautiful?
Returning to a recurring motif in his practice, birds are WEEKES’ subjects of exploration – visual expressions underlain by humour, cultural and personal meaning. Throughout art history, birds, synonymous with flight, have been used to depict humanity’s hopes and dreams. With a rich lineage of visual symbolism they can connote both the human and divine spirit by linking earth and sky in their freedom of movement.
Playing with colour, narrative and form WEEKES creates engaging compositions inspired by what he connotes as “beautiful” for the viewer to examine. From red finches to hummingbirds and a red Cardinal, to albino owls, ravens, peacocks, a dove, a white myna bird and a large albino emu, WEEKES distils his palette to colours of white and red, which results in unexpected yet balanced, complimentary couplings.
In true WEEKES style the works are elegantly layered with clues and symbolism for the viewer to unpick. Objects such as thorns – beautiful yet dangerous – or candles – that shed light but can also burn – present playful outcomes in their duality of meaning.
As such in the pursuit of beauty, SUBLIME is a richly layered exhibition, one that challenges and takes the viewer on various trajectories to anywhere but one answer.
TREVOR WEEKES was born in Orange, NSW and taught at the University of Newcastle. In 1999 he was awarded his PhD, Newcastle University and in 1994 he gained his Masters of Fine Art from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. In 2011 Weekes completed a residency at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing. His work is represented in public collections across Australia, as well as many private collections in the USA, Britain, Spain and Australia.
Ian MarrIn Flanders Fields: paintings on copper for the centenary of the Great War
6 November - 1 December 2018
Marking 100 years since the end of World War I, IAN MARR presents ‘In Flanders Fields’, paintings on copper from his time along the Western Front. In 2017 MARR travelled alongside twelve other Australian artists to the battlefields of Belgium and France to explore the Australian history and memories of the Great War, now steeped into the soils of the landscape.
Working near Flers, Peronne and Hamel on the Somme; Hill 60 near Ypres; close to Passchendaele and the Tyne Cot Cemetery; MARR immersed himself in the landscape, drawing on copper plates to develop into the paintings of the fields, cemeteries and villages that surround these sites. Of his time there MARR writes, “A century on, the Western Front battlefields exert a profound effect on visitors. The agricultural landscape is a prairie of corn, potatoes and canola, with few people and great machines trundling around, yet the stories and familial connections to the appalling events of the First World War are strong and sites evocative.”
Referencing the rich visual and lyrical history of War remembrance, the title of the exhibition, ‘In Flanders Fields’, is drawn John McCrae’s poem significant for the Ypres Salient and also the site from which the custom of remembering the War with red poppies was derived.
Reading writers in the past to understand the Great War for the present, MARR reached from Modern History with poems including “Dulce et Decorum Est” by English poet Wilfred Owen who drew inspiration from Roman poet Horace, and to Ancient History with a translation of Greek lyric poet Simonides of Ceos. MARR also cut letters into stone quoting these texts, which are currently exhibiting in Salient: Contemporary artists at the Western Front at the ANZAC Memorial, Sydney.
Imbued with history and memory of place, MARR’S paintings on copper ‘In Flander’s Fields’ create a space of reflection and remembrance of a place where past and present are blurred – forever marked by the devastation of the Great War.