Making connections, part I

  • Categories: Blog
  • Date: 3rd June 2012
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Last week it was hard to find connections. This week, it is all about connections and lots of them. Possibly at times a little tenuous, but connections nonetheless, which run from way out west to here in the east and from remote regions to the Sydney CBD.

I went to The Rocks a few times this week during the day – unlike most Sydney people at the moment. Apologies to Vivid, I am yet to, but am determined to, see the light(s). 
I started at SH Ervin Gallery on Observatory Hill. Run by The National Trust, it is a well resourced and respected public gallery which hosts a range of good exhibitions of Australian art, both historical and contemporary. It is home for the Salon des Refuses (the Archibald 2nds, if you like) and the Portia Geach Memorial Portrait Prize. You’ll always find a solidly curated exhibition here – not necessarily cutting edge or experimental, but one with depth and scholarship.

Currently showing is Not the Way Home, curated by Owen Craven aka editor Artist Profile. This exhibition is the result of a project that began 12 months ago, when 13 artists headed way west together, to live and work in a desert landscape. All Sydney (& environs) based, the artists drove 1,100km west of Sydney, past Broken Hill, to Fowlers Gap. It was a 2 week residency during which each artist had an opportunity to forget about the grind of daily life and immerse themselves in their work. Luxury (the only luxury). Artists featuring in Not the Way Home include: Margaret Ackland, Elisabeth Cummings, Merran Esson, Joe Frost, Alan Jones, Jennifer Keeler-Milne, Ross Laurie, Steve Lopes, Euan Macleod, Idris Murphy, Amanda Penrose Hart, Peter Sharp and Guy Warren.  

Late afternoon Fowlers Gap
Not sure who took this photograph but thank you.
Found on

It would be daunting to be cast out into the desert to work, for a limited period in which to come to grips with a difficult environment. No private studio or comfy bed, limited materials and few distractions. Working outside en plein air sounds very romantic, if it weren’t for the flies, dust, bugs, uneven rocky ground, wind and sun. There is nothing like an enormous challenge to get the creative juices flowing. Each artist rose to this challenge and produced a body of work which reflected their manied and varied responses to a difficult yet seductive landscape.
Art about landscape is not just about what we stand in and look at, it is also about what we remember – our impressions and emotional responses and the layers of stories of place and inhabitants (people, animals, plants, spirits). Elizabeth Cummings and Idris Murphy do not disappoint – as always their sense of place is based on the feel of a memory; sketching in the landscape is the groundwork for future paintings in the studio. 

Elisabeth Cummings Creek bed Fowlers Gap 2011
oil on canvas 115 x 130cm
image courtesy the artist, King Street Gallery and SH Ervin Gallery

Euan Macleod paints en plein air, quickly and confidently: his bonfire piece masterful with its fiery highlights. Jennifer Keeler-Milne, daunted by the expansive vista, chose to look down at her feet and discovered a wealth of plant life which she studied and drew. Peter Sharp created objects from bits and pieces in the landscape, then drew and painted them – exploring abstracted forms which emerge from the landscape and encourage a different perception. Merran Esson brought the texture of the landscape back with her, as clay impressions to be reworked in the studio as ceramic sculptures. 
The artists here all have good credentials and, from this collective experience, they have produced a body of works which no doubt will inform their respective practices for a long time. 

Euan Macleod Escarpment 2011
acrylic on polyester 124x100cm

image courtesy the artist, Watters Gallery
and SH Ervin Gallery



Jennifer Keeler-Milne work in progress charcoal on paper

image courtesy the artist and Tim Olsen Gallery

A project like this doesn’t get off the ground without funding – this one being funded and organised by Artist Profile magazine and Windsor & Newton art materials. The artists have to get there, stay there, be fed & watered (always assists with the creative flow) and use appropriate materials, suitable for the location. Check out the blog developed to document the project

It doesn’t stop there. Not The Way Home satellite exhibition is on at Stella Downer Fine Art in Danks St and Jennifer Keeler-Milne is also currently at Tim Olsen Gallery with Lumiere
I have written too much for one blog (it was a wet weekend) – take a break and come back to Part II when you’re ready for more.

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