by Tracy Sorensen
At first glance, there is a beguiling charm about Nic Mason's paintings. There's a little red bag and red shoes - full of expectancy, the delight of a journey - and the beautifully rendered faces of native animals. The numbat turns to look back at us as it sets off down the road; the bush stone curlew pauses with a friend for a moment in an iconic Australian forest. But there is an unease here, too. The open, innocent face of a human child is looking out under another gaze: the eyes of a fox worn as a headpiece. There is personality in those animal eyes but it's not quite clear whether they are alive.
The heads of native animals - detailed, layered, expressive - sit atop the bodies of human children. It's a strange conjoining; a sense that something is not quite right. The beauty amidst the not-quite-right lies at the heart of Nic Mason's paintings. Her work is infused with a deep knowledge of the Australian bush, knowledge gained through a childhood of intent observation and drawing and an adult life working in the field of conservation management.
Nic Mason's studio is an original, wonky, gold miner's cottage sitting amongst the trees at Napoleon Reef near Bathurst. For the first time in her life, for three precious months, she has given herself over to painting full time. Through her windows, she can see her children playing with their friends, her kelpie whizzing by, an old horse nibbling the grass. In another direction, there's the timeless presence of bark, leaf, rustling insects, glimpses of sky and earth. As she works, these things appear on the canvases on the walls and resting on easels, remixed through a searching imagination.
It's clear Nic Mason has a love of oil paint. She is not afraid to combine different approaches to mark-making within a single canvas, using thin, suggestive brush strokes against areas of heavily layered, skillful realism. It's the sort of realism that almost walks off the canvas. "Sometimes someone will recognise a friend's child by their stance or little body shape," says Nic.
The children's faces are often masked by the head of threatened native animal - a brush tailed rock wallaby perhaps, or a bilby. The animals in the paintings reflect Nic Mason years of work in threatened species recovery projects, including hands-on work saving the southern brown bandicoot. More recently, she has followed with professional interest moves to reintroduce the locally extinct numbat and bilby in the west of the state.
And then there's that little red bag. It represents going somewhere; a moment at the crossroads, a question. Animals are on the move. Are they coming back, leaving forever? The bag, says Nic, also represents her multi-tasking self. "For me, the red bag is about my life as a mum, my job, my involvement with an artist-run gallery. On any given morning I have to think about it. Which bag am I taking with me? It's not just one story."
Central NSW Discover magazine, April 2016, Wild and shared interests in art
"Nic Mason's exhibition also includes two large portraits of work colleagues, Sharon Riley and Dave Noble, whom she has both known for over 10 years. She painted Riley and Noble as they have a deep connection and passion for the land."
Source: Central NSW Discover magazine, April 2016, Wild and shared interests in art