Exhibitions by year: 2015

Judy Holding & Denese Oates

Sculpture 2015
28 January - 28 February

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JUDY HOLDING and DENESE OATES' sculptures translate organic, native and hybrid natural forms through industrial qualities of copper patina, rusted steel and paint. Both artists demonstrate a curiosity and concern for human relationships with wildlife in an age of environmental vulnerability and endangerment.

JUDY HOLDING draws particular interest from pre and post- colonial contexts of the Australian natural environment, as well as concern for its future. HOLDING identifies particular sets of imagery such as birds and native flora from "pre contact times" to the present. She describes the Australian landscape and its animal inhabitants in striking silhouettes and textures inspired by the bush. Such silhouettes are found in the rustic tactility of sculptural forms. The mix of natural and human-made materials in HOLDING's sculptures also draws attention to the impact that industrial scale agriculture, mining and water exaction is having on the ultimate fate of Australian land and its inhabitants.

DENESE OATES is a sculptor of considerable skill who transforms ordinary copper wire into inspired and carefully crafted objects that range from the biological to the botanical. Full of undulating movement and rhythmic lines, her organic forms convey the ebb and flow of nature. They remind us of its remarkable capacity to regenerate, proliferate and multiply into a myriad of exquisite forms. OATES is fascinated by contrasts and ambiguities, and by the human relationship with other living organisms. She captures flora in different stages of development, budding, sprouting, branching and tangling. OATES says she is "interested in the vulnerability of nature". Her manipulation of copper and patina suggests beauty in the wildness of nature and a sense of hope in new growth.

Merran Esson

3 March - 28 March

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MERRAN ESSON's investigation into ceramic vessels began with the container not just as a practical device but also as a structure. Catchment refers to both the vessel and perforated forms of ESSON's ceramics and naturally occurring catchments such as basin shaped areas and drainage networks of the land that rely on earth and mineral content and quality to determine their form. The emerging works are a result of this exploration with the interiors evoking a mixture of ideas about containment and implied function.

For ESSON, ceramics is defined by process. Firing clay is the end process and requires an understanding of geology, heat and time. While clay is common, the process of firing and an understanding of the quality and origin of the clay create differences. Creased and cracked surfaces expose where the clay fought against ESSON's will to bend and mould each slab. Her fingers made lined impressions as she has dragged them across the clay. Other works are glazed in ESSON's distinct copper greens, blues and yellows. Sculpted angular surfaces and pierced tactile planes suggest aged and corroded metal of water tanks exposed to the weather and the distinct colour of copper found in treasures buried beneath the sea. These clay vessels invite an exploration of ESSON's affinity with the land. They are suggestive of her rural past in NSW and refer to rural landmarks in the Mannus Valley and the Upper Murray where she spent her childhood as well as her visits to the arid zones of North West New South Wales.

ESSON's buckets are probably more industrial than organic although there is a strong rural element to this work through references to water tanks, silos and corrugated steel, particularly the way they sit isolated in the landscape with a strong presence.

Rachel Fairfax

100 Years Ago: Devotion
7 April - 2 May

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Gallipoli is a landmark of historical refuge for Australians through memorials and ritualised remembrance.100 Years Ago: Devotion showcases RACHEL FAIRFAX's response to the ANZAC centenary of the landing at Gallipoli. Through a selection of paintings and ceramics FAIRFAX has delved into these histories, with particular focus on the women who served in the Australian Army Nursing Services and the role of animals in World War I.

A painting expedition to Gallipoli in 2013 marked a significant course of artistic development for RACHEL FAIRFAX. Her personal encounter with this site sparked a fervent interest in both national and personal connections to the World Wars. FAIRFAX describes travelling through and painting the Gallipoli Peninsula as powerful, haunting and reverential. Gallipoli and Beyond, exhibited at Stella Downer Fine Art in September 2013, explored her initial engagements with Gallipoli as a place of remembrance. FAIRFAX's enquiry into World War history has developed through researching the impact of the World Wars on her own family histories, and how their lives were profoundly affected by their war service. These experiences have spring-boarded FAIRFAX's continued interest and exploration of the histories, imagery and symbolism of the ANZACs.

FAIRFAX's works combine cultural iconography and images with the personal realities of ANZAC history for the nurses. Her hand built ceramics reference the basic jugs and humble vessels used by nurses in their care of wounded soldiers.

FAIRFAX's imagery is derived from an amalgamation of different references including photographs, war records, propaganda posters, letters and diaries of people who served during the war. Dogs and birds have been a recurring theme through out much of FAIRFAX's painting practice. Here, war dogs and pigeons have been recaptured with reference to historical documents. This is a departure from her typical painting practice of drawing from life and creating paintings from those direct drawings. Nevertheless these works capture

FAIRFAX's ability to imbue the subjects of her art with liveliness and a sense of reverence that is often amiss in historical records.

The exhibition is dedicated by RACHEL FAIRFAX to her 94 year old Nan, who was the first to tell her stories of the wars. Lest we Forget.

Ian Marr

Painters' Places - Numinous Neighbours
5 May - 30 May

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Places carry both meaning and spirit far beyond their geographical presence. Painters' Places - Numinous Neighbours is an exhibition of paintings that capture IAN MARR's engagements with places in Australia, Ireland and across the world, which hold personal significance to the artist. These works are imbued with MARR's passion for history and travel.

MARR's paintings are tonal explorations into his most treasured areas, particularly in Australia and Ireland. These works are from the 'painters' places' in MARR's life: Tory Island, the Glens of Antrim, Wilcannia and Bruny Island. MARR often paints his textural landscapes on local slate, wood, copper and canvas. Working on the surfaces that originate from his painted vistas and locations give MARR's work a direct and literal link to a particular place and its natural world. His soft toned colours and viscous, gestural application of paint evoke many eras of landscape tradition and history. As it is for bird lovers, where if you sit quietly in the bush & wait, the whole natural world will come to you, so with painters, but the quiet shelter is the house, studio, residency or hut that gives you a temporary home while the waves crash & wind roars.

MARR is drawn to a long history of painters' relationships with place. For MARR, painters bless, and are blessed by, places: Samuel Palmer's Shoreham, Joan Eardley's Catterline, Lloyd Rees' Northwood and Werri, Horace Trenery at Port Willunga, and Derek Hill at Tory Island. These are places recognised and brought out through the minds and actions of painters and writers, a rich and generous collaboration, selfless and open to the unasked and unexpected revelation.

Tanya Chaitow, David Fairbairn, Ashley Frost, Di Holdsworth, Steve Lopes & Denese Oates

Gallery Artists
2 June - 27 June

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This exhibition brings together an amalgamation of the artists represented and newly showcased at Stella Downer Fine Art. Here is to be found the diversity of work by TANYA CHAITOW, DAVID FAIRBAIRN, ASHLEY FROST, DI HOLDSWORTH, STEVE LOPES and DENESE OATES, through paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures.

Adopting a naive style TANYA CHAITOW works intuitively to capture the poetics and psychological resonance of the subject matter of her work. She weaves a series of complex narratives that centre on negotiations of the self and contemplation of the human condition. Capturing his subjects with striking intimacy DAVID FAIRBAIRN's portraits are charged with an uncanny psychological reality. Putting flattery aside, these portraits are tender and revealing. FAIRBAIRN strips back psychological barriers between subject and artist revealing a stark and fragile humanity.

ASHLEY FROST is able to capture a wondrous sense of light, colour and depth in these thick, painterly renderings. His works find an intriguing balance between subject and the materiality and viscosity of the paint in his mark making. DI HOLDSWORTH creates wonderfully intricate kinetic sculptural assemblages, often with narrative intent. These small sculptures respond to a series of police forensic photographs of Greater Sydney from the 50's and 60's. Manually winding the works in these makeshift dollhouses reveal the shadows of figures moving past the window blind.

STEVE LOPES demonstrates a skilled, thoughtful approach to landscape. He is interested in the potential for landscapes to set a particular tone and atmosphere to enable a psychological setting in an image. These latest works captured by the artist en plein air demonstrate a haunted beauty in the land. DENESE OATES combines the botanical forms with novel ideas around what the inner confines of a book holds, and how these secrets and lies, facts and ideas, mysteries and propositions can be synonymous with the visual representation of growth. The sculptures fabricated in copper that emerge from the books represent the contents bursting out into the light and air, energy escaping from the binds of the book and information sprouting, reaching and spreading.

Mark Bailey & Annabel Butler

Mark Bailey & Annabel Butler

2 June - 6 June

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Repetition and reconstruction play important roles in the practices of MARK BAILEY and ANNABEL BUTLER. Both artists have engaged ideas and practices of perception. Looking and perceiving are naturally informed by the persuasion of memories and acts of subconscious editing that render experiences of the world abstract and strange. The intermingling of fragmented memories, visual impressions through observation and perspective result these reconstructions.
This exhibition engages and reflects on our human propensity for this visual experience of surroundings.

BAILEY is concerned with the routines of day-to-day life and fundamental cycles that span lifetimes. Through idealised subjects, randomly generated sequences, organised found objects and infinite video pieces he attempts to reconstruct both the manmade tools of the observer, and the subtle rhythms and gentle persuasions of nature.

BUTLER's process is to fragment multiple observational paintings of specific scenes and reconstruct them as wall-reliefs. Vestiges of the initial landscapes appear as repeated refrains within layered fields of more abstracted or imagined landscapes - creating a feeling of repetition and surfacing of memory.

Rod Holdaway

People, Places and the Spaces Between
30 June - 25 July

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ROD HOLDAWAY's works are an expression of people and place. They reflect the transmutable and elusive nature of social interactions in public spaces. The titles of HOLDAWAY's works are presented as concise observations of the number of figures and the place. However these paintings and digital drawings move beyond the physical reality of these scenes. The subjects of these works are shrouded in anonymity. Through their gestural intensity the figures in these works are distinguishable, yet somehow also vague and interchangeable. For HOLDAWAY "they appear as conglomerates, sedimentary, recycled, pushed and pulled and even destroyed". Heads and bodies, gestures and details are painted or drawn, with elements concealed through a process of layering, so that the subject of each work is never truly singular or clearly discernible. A process of layered composition and painting methods reflect narratives appropriate to the congested interactions that emerge on the street and in the park.

HOLDAWAY's digital iPad drawings in particular invite a sense of immediacy through bold and energetic mark making. There are implied movements and interactions. These fluid lines allow for an intermingling of people and place and the implied energy of the spaces between.

The built environment provides the perfect analogue for the human psyche. As HOLDAWAY fragments and dissects, winds and navigates his way through familiar streetscapes and public parks their materiality is simultaneously captured and dissolved. What emerges is unique to the artist's perspective yet also reflects a commonality. These paintings encourage reflection upon the social constructs and contracts that underpin much of human behaviour in an everyday public context.

Janet Dawson

TURNABOUT the same place but different
28 July - 29 August

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JANET DAWSON captures light and tone with a sure and subtle hand. Through landscape and still life, DAWSON traces changes and a turnabout of familiar vistas, seeing with keen eyes the beauty throughout.

DAWSON's work has been affected by recent shifts and life changes, including a recent move from her rural property Scribble Rock, where she resided for 40 years, to a small cottage in the nearby town of Binalong in New South Wales. This five-kilometre shift from bush to village meant DAWSON inhabited the same landscape, however the shift in scale and proportion and the turnabout of familiar landmarks caused queries for the artist. DAWSON contemplates this resonance of place as subject matter: "At Scribble Rock the two hills that dominated our western skyline were great long flanks topping undulating foothills. Here in the village they are conical peaks poking above the village trees and houses, so they have a strong immediate presence."

Her current works are concerned with these shifts and changes and the adjustment processes of seeing and memory. DAWSON's approach to drawing is not to just express what is seen and accept the retinal image. She is just as inclined to express what she knows. DAWSON's knowledge of the surrounding light, air, rocks and vegetation enriches her immediate visual impression.

Trevor Weekes

1 September - 3 October

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TREVOR WEEKES is no quiet observer when it comes to nature. Led by an enduring interest with birds and animals, his practice is one of active enquiry. Steering clear of any cool detached scientific sentiment, he invites the viewer into his imaginative wanderings that blur the real with the uncanny or symbolic. Voyager takes flight into the fabled and mythical stories of the Swallow. Intrinsically entwined with man's oceanic odysseys, for WEEKES, the swallow, of all the birds in the world, has come to symbolize more meaning than any other.

Navigating the age-old sailors tales of the Swallow in oceanic travels, WEEKES showcases the Swallow in its leading role. For those out to sea Swallows were seen as a good omen; tattooed on arms, symbols of a long journey's end, or left responsible to carry a drowned one's soul to heaven. Across cultures the Swallow embodies a positive sign, universal for freedom and hope, as well as love, care and affection towards family and friends. Situated within its cultural history, the Swallow is placed as a beacon of hope as it guides an anonymous vessel on a journey to safety. Adding to the myths of this cultural symbol, WEEKES engages in a dialogue with nature and its ongoing significance in man's cultural narratives.

Viola Dominello

Recent Work
6 October - 31 October

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VIOLA DOMINELLO creates works of quiet wonder. Finding inspiration near her home around the Hawkesbury and the hinterlands, a warmth and familiarity exudes from the landscapes. Working en plein air her first impressions jot down the essential features of the landscape, capturing an instant of changing light and tone. This sense of immediacy speaks of an intuitive artistry that captures the feeling and mood of a place. Through painterly gesture DOMINELLO's practice is imbued with a sensitivity that reveals moments of the intricate and transient beauty of the landscape.

Lively switching between watercolour and oil paints, DOMINELLO responds to the felt experience. Working en plein air, her practice is inspired by the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich, who outlines, "The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also omit to paint then what he sees before him". For DOMINELLO it is this first encounter through en plein air practice that is later recreated in the studio, resulting in highly perceptive emotive works.

What excites DOMINELLO's work is an unceasing curiosity to push the boundaries of her practice. In constructing her works, such as with On the River, 'concertina' moleskine sketchbook, DOMINELLO used a format to unfold the landscape as the eye travels along. With vigour DOMINELLO cuts into the paint, moving and scraping it over the canvas to create texture and movement. Her en plein air landscapes are atmospheric in mood and tonality, layered with calligraphic marks to evoke landscapes alive with movement and energy.

Liz Shreeve

Playing with Numbers
3 November - 28 November

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As if a trick of the eye, LIZ SHREEVE's works transform the two- dimensional into the three-dimensional. Precisely folded, geometric patterns emerge out of the previously blank paper. The rhythmic formations play with light and shadows as they are cast upon them. However don't think that this is a practice that sticks to the straight and narrow, SHREEVE has mastered the rules and bends them to her own devices.

In her latest works SHREEVE explores the significance of numbers and geometry in the colour and patterns of her paper sculptures. With mathematical principles as her starting point, SHREEVE has discovered new arrangements in the repeating of geometric elements. The series in this exhibition were developed through a residency at CULTURE AT WORK in Pyrmont.

However for the weary-eyed observer these are not strict regimentations of mathematical principles. They are an artistic hybrid form, a delightful result of the cross fertilisation of maths and artistic intent. Using simple repeated units in paper and wood, SHREEVE creates ordered relief works that capture and warp the light as it moves across the patterned arrangements. Striking in their complexity and strength, the works are a quiet celebration of the visual. Interplaying binaries of light and colour, order and disorder - the pulsing paper formations catch the eye and draw you in. They make you aware of seeing.

Betty Bray, Annabel Butler, Viola Dominello, Merran Esson, Rachel Fairfax & Ashley Frost

Deck the Walls
1 December - 19 December

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A time of celebration and overindulgence, December has returned to Sydney covered in tinsel and all things Christmas. Adding to the cheer, Deck the Walls is a rich display of diverse artists represented at Stella Downer Fine Art. From paintings to ceramics, artists BETTY BRAY, ANNABEL BUTLER, VIOLA DOMINELLO, MERRAN ESSON, RACHEL FAIRFAX and ASHLEY FROST are here to ring in the final exhibition of the year.

MERRAN ESSON's works speak of an affinity with the land. The ceramic sculptures are imbued with an industrial nature, conjuring up memories of corrugated iron tanks, rusting fences and the geology of the land. Craning your head around, down and inside the vessel, there is always something more to discover.

ASHLEY FROST's works are stunning coastal vistas of from where you'd rather be. Painting in the sublime hours of the early morning, FROST's coastal works capture first light and its changing dance atop the water in textured and tactile renderings.

Incorporating both painting and ceramics into her practice, RACHEL FAIRFAX depicts scenes from the coastline of Coogee to the burnt outback that are quintessentially Australian. The soft washes speak of a lightness of hand, evoking a painterly stillness in the works that immerse you in their reflection.

BETTY BRAY has an eye for colour, selectively paring the landscape back to its most striking visual elements. Playing with colour and tone, the vivid works capture the essence of landscapes that maintain a familiarity in their surreal obscurity.

With a delicate sensibility VIOLA DOMINELLO deftly switches between watercolour and oil paints to respond to the felt experience. Working en plein air, DOMINELLO's painterly gestures and calligraphic marks create works alive with movement and energy.

ANNABEL BUTLER plays on perception and perspective, creating impressions of landscapes that are informed by personal interpretation. The loose brushwork speaks of a well-honed practice, playing with form and repetition to create landscapes that are imbued with a sense of memory of place.