An exhibition of art by four members of the Illawarra Association for the Visual Arts (IAVA): Liz Jeneid, Deborah Redwood, Mary Wingrave and Judy Bourke.
For the month of July, the upstairs Gallery at Beach Art Bulli is hosting those who’ve been journeying a while and intend further exploration. All four artists hold in common a reverence for the nature of things, as well as a hard-won confidence in their practice. There’s no whiff of calcification here though: each artwork is a record of lively engagement.
Deborah Redwood’s sculptures and installations are now nationally recognised. Earlier this year she was a Finalist in Cottesloe’s Sculpture by the Sea and is a regular in Sculpture at Scenic World and other major exhibitions around the country. Dedicated to imposing a new order onto post-industrial materials, her works range from playful to sober, with ecological and social justice concerns a frequent theme.
Black death references the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. Modestly sized, it comprises a cylindrical section from a large drill spearing through the figure of a fish described in metal. Stressed wood is a wall-mounted piece of silky oak, bearing the wounds of cutting and sawing. The blades of sawing tools have been left in the cruel incisions and threaten the viewer’s space. Given a little more room to breathe, this piece could bring to mind a crucifixion image.
Other pieces in the show simply demonstrate her fascination with materials –the surface finish, size and shape. I prefer the pieces where rhythm is most prominent, for instance Nothing to say where a length of copper tubing creates a meandering line through the air, with each end terminating in a small flared bell. This is a visually satisfying and fun piece which might bring to mind the voices raised in the recent election hubbub.
Mary Wingrave’s works are incredibly alive. The artist cherishes all aspects of the natural environment, and her works reveal a deep desire to share and celebrate this with the viewer.
Autumn impressions comprises small-format monotype prints of firewheel blossoms (a favourite subject of Australian printmaker Margaret Preston’s) presented in a snug grid formation. The variety of surface treatment and the consideration given to colour and tonal rhythm is masterfully handled. Wingrave tells me she’s has been wary of colour for many years, but this exhibition demonstrates a colour sense that’s both sophisticated and restrained.
She’s included three larger still-lives in mixed media, full of the generous curves of pumpkins, bottles and leaves. There are also some encaustic works focussing on the form of the cicada. The surfaces are the colour of bees wax and reminiscent of both ancient scientific documentation and human flesh.
Judy Bourke’s art always strikes me as being the thing she does to survive: as natural and necessary as breathing. Consistently prolific, she works on bookmaking, textiles, printmaking, sculpture and drawing. I admire how after knowing her for 15 years, I still can’t always reliably pick her work.
For this show she’s included artist’s books of drawings of the NSW North Coast. Influenced by the style of the late Australian printmaker Bea Maddock, these are coastal descriptions using simplified forms in ink on paper, presented in a concertina format 5cm high and several metres long. These are beautifully observed and understated.
There are also small free-standing figures created from industrial packaging. The styrofoam shapes that originally protected electronic goods in transit have been carefully covered with hand-made Nepalese kenaf paper. The artist has worked this surface with multiple layers of coloured stamp imprints.
At first glance these figures may seem light-hearted, but there’s an underlying concern in Bourke’s practice with issues of waste. She’s keen to honour the natural resources utilized in industrial processes as well as the human labour that goes into each item, often invisible to the end-consumer. Considered in this light, the pieces, embellished with tiny parts gleaned from industrial discards and covered in the precious paper brought back from Nepal in the artist’s luggage, take on the aura of reliquaries.
Liz Jeneid travels widely and often. The pieces in this show are the fruits of a residency in the south of France at Peyriac-de-Mer, an area populated with lakes that for centuries produced salt as an economic mainstay for the village.
Despite the titles locating them geographically, Jeneid’s plein air works read as altogether out of time and place. The stronger of the two suites of work is a series of ten modestly sized square-format paintings on paper using watercolour and gesso.
The lakes are serene and still as a mirror, surrounded by warm-toned, simplified landforms and reflecting a quiet and empty sky. There is a delightful Japanese aesthetic at work here: the simplicity of the forms, the careful consideration of negative space and the delicacy of touch are classic Jeneid and go straight to something deep that we all too often overlook. Maybe it’s soul.
In a nod to straight description the gesso surface is scratched in places to indicate vegetation. The overall feeling though is that we are looking at somewhere that may well be the interior of Jeneid’s head more than some literal observation of place.
There’s a quiet confidence about this whole show. Go take a look and consider your time well spent.
Upstairs at Beach Art Gallery, 233 Princes Hwy, Bulli
Open: Tuesday – Friday 9.30am – 5pm & Sat 9.30am – 3pm
Contact: (02) 4285 4111
Opening Event Saturday 9 July @ 2pm.
Exhibition runs for the whole of July.