Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The World Turned Upside Down Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm unframed 2003

In 2003 I held a solo exhibition called 'Here Comes The Bride' at Brisbane's Soapbox Gallery. The exhibition consisted of a number of oil paintings plus over 70 works on paper which were displayed montage style on the gallery walls. The over arching umbrella idea was to 'play' with and explore the image of the bride in the landscape which has been a recurring theme in art history.

Now...this is where it got personal, because I had literally been the young bride in the landscape ie: I married at the age of 21 and went to live in western Queensland with my husband in a small rural community [population around 5,000] called Goondiwindi. After University I had worked as a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery in Canberra...but there were no national galleries or even galleries [except a craft shop] in Goondiwindi! When I had the exhibition 'Here Comes The Bride' in 2003 I had been divorced for a couple of years and had been living in Brisbane, after spending 18 years living in Goondiwindi.

So...the exhibition was a little angsty. I did not see it at the time, but friends did!

The image above The World Turned Upside Down depicts the bride in the bottom left corner looking a little frantic as she tries to decipher why everything is upside down. Her world, which includes her dreams for the future, are all of sudden changed. This bride is situated in a rural or pastorale landscape, yet she seems absorbed by it... as if it is quick sand.

The exploration of the bride in the landscape theme brought a realisation that young women who marry and move to rural environments can be described as not being 'in' the landscape as some kind of observer or object, but rather they are absorbed or consumed by it. The landscape consumes them as they give their spirit, energy and vitality to their communities and families. When [and if] they leave, traces of their spirit are left. Also, the land and landscape never leaves them, because it burrows into their psyche like a umbilical river.

But, I won't go on about this aspect of the exhibition, because there was another that I really enjoyed 'playing' with. ' I was inspired to recontextualise or appropriate Titian's famous painting Sacred and Profane Love. Here's a link to an image and some information This painting is imbedded in the art historical theme of the bride in the landscape as it is a painting to celebrate a wedding with the bride, accompanied by Venus and a distracted Cupid, set against a pastorale scene. However, it is an unusual wedding painting for the sixteenth century because the groom is absent. This and the look in the bride's eyes got me thinking!

Is the bride feeling like her world will be turned upside down? Is she thinking of her future or even a lost love? Is earthly love a perhaps the presence of Venus and Cupid's distraction suggests? Does the idyllic pastorale scene suggest some kind of quarantining of the young woman from worldy activities? These sort of questions are as pertinent now as they would have possibly been 500 years ago. In fact, love was pondered upon voraciously by poets, writers, artists. There is still a voracious appetite for romance today even though it is often hidden behind explicitly sexual song lyrics, graphic films or turned into Vampire love!

I painted a series of images which took components of Sacred and Profane Love and re-contextualised them to 'speak' with a contemporary voice, but one which clearly created a link back to the past. I used the figure of the bride in all, but one, of my paintings. Venus is evident in all, but I have left Cupid out, although he is always actually 'present' in absentia because he exists, albeit in a distracted state, in the earlier painting. I recreated the pastorale scene as either an all-consuming landscape or as a scene with skyscrapers hovering in the distance. The latter represents my dream ie: to live in the city, enjoy a more sophisticated cultural and intellectual life and resurrect my career.

The paintings from the series are all below.

Woman Child Dream Gouache on paper 30 x 42 xm unframed 2003

There are deliberately no commas in this painting's title. I wanted to convey that the woman and child are the same person and the dream that existed for the child still exists as a memory for the woman. In the painting the bride's self as a child seems to be transfixed by Venus. Like many little girls I used to dream of my wedding day and this little girl in this painting is me, but also every other woman who still carries the 'little girl' memories of herself inside her. We need to be compassionate towards ourselves! The city in the background replaces the small village in Sacred and Profane Love, yet the strip of rain in the far horizon looms with both hope and fear. Regular readers of my BLOG will recongise the strip of rain as a recurring motif in my work. 

With Contemporary Eyes Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm unframed 2003
In this painting I have chosen to depict only the bride and Venus. I am asking the viewer to see the painting with contemporary eyes to search for questions that have been asked for hundreds of years. These questions link us. The striped lines around the bride bring or transform her into the contemporary space, almost protecting her as Venus seems to be simultaneously disappearing and re-configuring?

Looking For The Answer Gouache on pape 30 x 42 cm 2003
So... in this image the bride and Venus seem to grow out of the landscape or are they being absorbed by it? How are we to know 'love', or is the only true love found in Heaven, as Venus maybe suggesting? In fact, the white background is suggestive of some kind of heavenly place! This painting represents some kind of transformation which I suspect happens as time collapses and the past and present collide. This is one of the powerful aspects of apropriation. Even though I have not faithfully copied Titian's painting [and why would I!?] there were visual, emotional, and art historical aspects imbedded in his painting that seemed to invite me to open up a conduit through time.

Ageless Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm unframed 2003
The search for, the experience and the understanding of love are ageless quests. Is 'quest' the right word? Maybe it isn't, but in this painting the broken lines represent the lines on the highways I drove out west...endless driving into the distance. The concept of a 'journey' is defintely an appropriate one when thinking of love.

A Different Landscape Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm 2003

This painting proposes a different landscape. The city has moved to the foreground of the image. A new life seems possible. The bride is absent, but is she? Maybe she is in the city with Venus watching over or beckoning her?

Jigsaw Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm unframed 2003

Love Puzzle Gouache on paper 30 x 42 cm unframed 2003

The last two paintings play with the idea that love is a puzzle which is, in fact, maybe why we pursue it, even in our dreams! Nothing like a puzzle to engage us. Indeed as the bride's gaze in Sacred and Profane Love suggests, love was a puzzle 500 years ago too.

In my last BLOG post I said I'd write something about appropriation. Well, I have done this by writing about my own work. For me appropriation is a conscious and deliberate activity that in the first instance is stimulated and then driven by intellectual catalysts which inform the artist's choices of materials, subject, positioning and even how the work is exhibited etc. Other issues such as aesthetic or creative ones are mediated by the intellectual activity of repositioning, recontextualising another artist's or creator's work or aspects of the work. It needs to be more than just simply clever or interesting.




Audubon Ron said...

For me, love has always been a visitor. I have loved those who didn’t love me and vice-versa. A tragedy occurred in my spring years of adolescents to manhood with love shattering all future notions that it was ever possible to begin with. From then on, I suppose the best I have ever been is “In Familiar”.

Ed Newman said...

Very nice collection of pieces here. Thanks for sharing.... Your art blog showed up next after mine when I began to surf this a.m.
Best to you
ennyman / ed newman

Marisete Zanon said...

Very, very nice your work! Congratulations!