My last series of works Paintings within Paintings involved my paintings painted back into new paintings. Some of the essence of that series is captured within Rebecca Wilson’s catalogue writing on that series.
With this current body of work, I am back to playing with many of my still life treasured regulars, finds from my daily walks with the pooches, my kids toys and domestic objects from my home. Wondering if a painting within a painting would appear along the way, but with no direct plans made, a moment arrived today like the heavens opening and the downpour coming. Unbeknown to me, my painting in progress well on the way called out for a painting within a painting. This time it was a variant on my painting within a painting theme. In respect to my last series, I painted existing paintings of mine back into new paintings of mine. In my painting today in keeping with my still life play, I painted a painting prop that was then inserted in my still life theatre. And just like that, like the weather we are swallowing from the current deluge of rains and flooding, a painted cloud on a stick was inserted into my still life set up. With its shadow, they joined the carousel of measuring ducks taking my kids toys and a banksia cone for a merry-go-round play.
In creating in this way, I think back on when I was studying painting at ANU. There, I was drawn to the work of contemporary Australian artist Amanda Marbug. She makes scenes with plasticine models she has formed before photographing and finally painting depictions of her laboured still life theatres. In a similar but different vein Jakub Tomas from the Czech Republic has a process where he creates still life scenes from collaging the cutting out of 2D images, before creating paintings of his mashed scenarios. The physicality of this way of working, with still life incorporating the installation of the handmade enlivened me when Jakub and I painted side by side in studios three storeys up in an old monastery during a residency at CAMAC Marnay-sur-Seine in France. A little of this residency experience is captured in my CAMAC blog of this time. These creative process’ also send me back to look again at some of the early 20th century movements that explored with the practice of collaging from Braque’s and Picasso’s assemblages in their cubist ways evoking dimensionality to the socially critical work of Hannah Höch’s with her forays within the Dada movement. And all these make me think too of trompe l'oeil and standing in front of artist Louis-Léopold Boilly, painting of the same name in the Louvre during my pre-covid residency travels abroad.
I could have just painted the cloud into my painting without such a handmade painted prop in the still life set up, but the physicality and the slowness of the process felt right. Some of the beauty of painting and still life is the joy netted in playing, the joy in the process not just through the delicious materiality of painting but in the set-up and theatre of the still life too. I like that through the process of creating this particular painting, a novel way of working for me materialises. I like that there was a clear moment of its birth, through the creative process. I like too that it cycles in but builds from my last series of paintings within paintings. With all creation, I recognise that ideas do not arrive in isolation, but their conception is because I interact in this world and am influenced by what is in front of me and has come before me. I like that I am part of a lineage, where I see linkages to similar ways of working with contemporary and historical artists. But from this lineage it is exciting to experience departure and uniqueness too. In creating a new 2D painting that becomes a 3D prop set created for a painting I am in the process of painting there is a distinctiveness in this process too. And then there are the still life paintings themselves with their possibilities of ambiguity and intrigue through both their materiality and conceptualisation.
I think too about the title of this body of work, Cycle. Not only does it relate to my ideas of nature and culture coalescing, but it relates to my creative process. Within each of my series of works (made in moments of time during residencies or preceding exhibition deadlines) there is repetition from the cycles before; there are iterative tendencies within the series; and there is experimentation and tangents along with new ways of working and growth too. The evolution of my new works builds from my existing works with the continual adaption of both reworked and new ideas. Whilst I paint, I have been re-listening to Maria Stoljar’s Talking with Painters interviews and I relate to William Mackinnon’s (Ep 94 and 38) experiences and expressions to “trust in the process that something interesting is going to come out”, that “there is a mysterious element and a work effort element” and that “one work really leads to two more”.
I think about how my body of work with this title, Cycle relates to the titles and bodies of work of two other series of works that will be exhibited in Bathurst Regional Art Gallery at the same time with The Hassell Collection: Sidney Nolan - Drought series; and Robert Hirschmann: Rising Moon series. I think of how the moon and droughts cycle and how La Niña is currently being experienced in eastern Australia. It interests me that I am making this body of work through a La Niña event, how this event may shape my series and how these works within my series may converse with the two other artist’s series.
This program is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW