Strathnairn Members Exhibition 2015 at Strathnairn Arts, Holt, article in Canberra Times

Strathnairn Members’ Exhibition 2015. Strathnairn Arts, Holt. On until  November 15.

It’s exhibition time for some of our artist communities, workshops and galleries.

The professional and non-professional artists involved are at different stages and the quality of their work can be uneven. Stylistically, artists are often poles apart and many work in different media, from clay to fibre. However, there are always works that show real achievement and promise.

Maureen Lawrentin, "Autumn on the Murrumbidgee" in Strathnairn 2015 members' exhibition.Maureen Lawrentin, “Autumn on the Murrumbidgee” in Strathnairn 2015 members’ exhibition. Photo: Supplied

The Strathnairn members’ exhibition is well displayed in the homestead’s two galleries. There are more than 50 works by both well and lesser-known artists, so it would have been useful to have information on each artist to provide context for their work. The media on display ranges from oil painting to sculpture and is indicative of the diversity of artists who have studios on the property or are part of the Strathnairn community

A very accomplished oil painting by Val Johnson, Tasmanian Wilderness, is a real eye-catcher in Gallery 2. The heightened palette of bright colour and the stylised decorative foliage in the landscape give the work an art deco feel. Through the classic device of trees in the foreground framing a distant vista, Johnson suggests a real depth to the landscape as well a sense of place.

Maureen Lawrentin’s​ Autumn on the Murrumbidgee shares this intensity of colour in her celebration of the seasonal hues of autumn. Rosemary Brock’s small mixed-media work Desert Scar also has a nice sense of place and captures the colours of the desert convincingly. Carole Osmotherly’s work The Red Hat is painted on silk using a wax resist technique. Osmotherly’s command of this media enables her to convey the dense lushness of overhanging greenery shot through by a dramatic flash of red.

Val Johnson, "Tasmaninan Wilderness" in 2015 Strathnairn Members exhibition at Straithnairn Arts.Val Johnson, “Tasmaninan Wilderness” in 2015 Strathnairn Members exhibition at Straithnairn Arts. Photo: Supplied

Robert Rigg’s exhibition A Quiet Moment was at Strathnairn in September. In this exhibition his painting On the shelf is the more successful of his two well-executed still life oils. It is characterised by a lovely play of light across a small ceramic jug. This ability to capture the gleam of light that illuminates the canvas is one of Rigg’s strengths as a painter. However, in his other work Book with clay pot, the light is subdued by a clay pot whose large, dark bulk casts a melancholic gloom across the work.

Erik Krebs-Schade’s two figure studies are very small in scale but their subject and its treatment are more epic in scope. The Sky and Chair is the most striking, with the figure seen as if from below holding a chair against an intense blue sky. The confident rendering of the chair at that angle is very accomplished. It reminded me of drawings by Renaissance artists using perspective to study and draw the human body from all angles and viewpoints.

Jill Clingan’s​ pastel work Interior with Bowl of Fruit is appealing. The warm tonal notes of the room’s interior and the portrayal of the soft shapes of the well-used sofa and cushions suggest ease and comfort.

One of the artists working in printmaking, Jo Hollier has just had a very successful exhibition at the Belconnen Arts Centre. Her two prints Women’s work 1 and 2 are variations on the theme of textiles and sewing. The images are cleverly designed within a pattern of squares – a format that could also suggest a patchwork quilt.

Nancy Tingey, well known for her textile installations, has instead transformed images that suggest weaving-like strands into a network of wires in her collagraph print Pylon; while Anne Balcomb’s print Scrutinising 11, with its central image of a magpie, captures the texture of the bird’s feathers and imparts its vitality.

Robyn McAdam’s photopolymer etchings of Venice reveal a sombre and atmospheric view of the city – the outline of its buildings revealed by moonlight. Val Fitzpatrick’s two works in mixed media Visit to Mesogonia and Patterns of the Ancient World have layers of line and colour built up into a dancing kaleidoscope of imagery. However, the resulting complexity of surface markings seemed more suited to a larger work and gave the impression of being imprisoned within too small a format.

Joan James is on form with her textile work Itajime Dancing with its delicate contrasts of colour and texture in silk and dye. Hellen O’Sullivan’s beautiful wall hanging Discharge distressed only indirectly suggests the shape of a Japanese haori jacket. In this work the artist has skilfully orchestrated a play of contrasts between the subtle shades of indigo blue dyes and the textures of cotton and hessian fibre.

Among the three-dimensional works is Peter King’s beautifully modelled bronze Trying on Mother’s Shoes and Ian Hodgson’s iconic wood-fired bottles with their beautiful marks of the wood-firing process. Sui Jackson’s very small cube of glass Bonsai 1 could easily be overlooked. It is an intriguing puzzle-like image of a tree held within glass as if it is a botanical specimen. Does this relate to Jackson’s clever installation in March last year in the Canberra Glassworks exhibition Tree, in which he created a glass forest that was depleted when each tree was bought? It is hard to know from this small but tantalising work.


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