My painting has been following a dynamic of its own for the past couple of years. I well remember when my art history teacher asked when I was going to move on from works based on family history and the Hawkesbury River and I had to say I did not know. That was part of an internal compulsion to deal with the past. I wanted to do it both through writing and painting. I have been putting some thoughts together on this in my posts, and feel confident enough now to be able to say that I have made the leap, and to explain what I am doing in my current work.
I am working mainly on landscape, with a slight engagement in the portrait field. The landscapes are taking several forms. The exploration of time, space and narrative continue, but with different approaches. I am working on several “series”, each with its own logic and techniques.
The overall theme is “Mountains West” and the work develops around the valleys within and beyond the Blue Mountains, the spaces joining the geological forms from the Hawkesbury Sandstone areas north into the eroding stone formations of the Capertee and Wolgan Valleys. The past and present here reflects the intersection between the use of the land as pasture and rural activity on the one hand and the “wild” untouched stone formations, mountains, cliffs and bushland into which this more recent activity has intruded. The indigenous past is ever-present and I am seeking to find ways to represent that without using conventional signs and symbols.
The “Three Valleys” theme refers to Megalong, Hartley and Capertee. Each of these has their own qualities. Plus there are the places along Cox’s River towards Jenolan Caves which can be added. There is also the area around Eugowra of which I could work up a couple of examples, but these are further west again and different kinds of valley.
As far as approach and technique is concerned, I seem to be working with different approaches. I like working on paper with different media, including possible cold wax paint, small, semi-abstract views, not at all the formal landscape approach. Maybe they include individual trees. Coloured inks, graphite and gouache will all work at this level. These paper-based works should remain fairly small, never larger than A2. A3 seems to be a good size, or near that, on heavy-weight water-colour paper, but not too dense.
Secondly, I want to try out some larger valley views in acrylics. I haven’t tried this yet and it may be even more difficult than oils, but if it works it is so much easier to complete quickly using different layers. They will not come from any workshops, only from my own experience of place and the photos I have taken for reference.
Thirdly, I want to keep working with smaller-scale oils. These are smaller and more intimate and realist pictures, reflecting the “classic” Australian landscape scale and approach.
A fourth parallel project is the writing of a study of Australian landscape painting from an historical and theoretical perspective.
Future posts on this site will discuss various aspects of this developing work.