Nic Mason, BALANCE 2018 - Text
BALANCE - catalogue
BALANCE - essay by Catherine Atkinson
In this stunning collection of paintings, Nic Mason ponders the impact of interlopers on the Australian landscape. Since European colonisation, Australia has experienced devastating wildlife species loss. Introduced species have been implicated in almost all of the mammal extinctions during this time and they continue to wreak havoc with many of Australia's unique threatened species. In her elegant, painterly compositions, Nic focuses our attention with sensitivity, compassion, and a touch of her trademark wit.
Animal skulls, weathered and bleached by time are displayed as still life in an intimate, domestic environment. Precariously stacked, they vie for prominence in the composition just as, when living, they once contended for dominance in the landscape. Presented together with a whimsical - often red -traveller’s suitcase, Nic evokes a narrative of a fragile ecosystem struggling to balance competing interests. Juvenile eucalyptus leaves reference the flourishing of a new growth and impart a sense of hope for the future.
Nic’s loose brushwork and painterly application, combined with her attention to shadows and reflections, to suggest that greater forces are at play beyond what immediately meets the eye. Whilst their life force may be gone, a more dynamic energy is generated when these static objects come together.
White dominates Nic’s palette, echoing the weathering effects of time on life after death. White also alludes to a sense of isolation and reflects the detachment with which we view our relationship to the Australian landscape and native wildlife. Not without a sense of hope, white also suggests the possibility of new beginnings, of wiping the slate clean, and moving forward to an enlightened future.
Nic's marks are expressive and imbued with a tenderness for her subject matter that spreads to the viewer. Her empathy is contagious. She pushes us to care about the plight of our native wildlife, and in particular our threatened species, as much as she does.
Nic Mason, New growth II, oil on linen, 60 x 60 cm
Nic Mason, Rabbit, fox, dog, deer and brush-tailed rock wallaby, oil on linen, 40 x 40 cm
BALANCE - artist statement
My paintings are strongly influenced by my background in conservation management, family the land and people around me.
Narrative and symbolism are central to most of my work. It is deliberate that shadows loom large in their artificial landscape, stuffed animals are not regally placed and animal skulls are stacked one upon the other. These skulls are based on unique Australian native animals - both common and threatened species. Some stacks are topped with the skulls of introduced animals to the Australian landscape while others are juxtaposed in their still life theatre set arrangement with toy animals. My travellers bag weaves its way through this collection along with leaves of a local eucalypt.
In my work, I explore painting as a symbolic vehicle for contemplating issues of environmental loss and hope. I consider our engagement with and impact on the natural world.
For this exhibition, I have worked with licenced wildlife collections based in Australia and France and I am richly informed by my background in science and conservation management. My current investigations are focused on still life experiments where I play with the objects and their reflections and shadows, as well as mark making, repetition and considered compositional elements.
The artworks exhibited in BALANCE have been selected from several bodies of work. These series include: two practice led research projects undertaken while I was studying post graduate studies in painting at the Australian National University School of Art in 2016 and 2017; a solo exhibition ‘STILL’ in 2017; participating in an international artist residency at Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre in France in 2017; and reflection upon these projects with my return to Australia in early 2018.
I am interested in the possibilities of enticing new ways of thinking through connection and engagement with art. I am optimistic about ongoing learning of creating work that engages and communicates concepts. I am optimistic that my paintings, drawings and sculptures enables meaning to resonate over time and place.
Nic Mason, Three macropods and a dog, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
Nic Mason, Macropod balancing II (revisited), oil on linen, 40 x 40 cm
BALANCE - invitation
BALANCE - media