Water Drawn. By Heather Burness, Susan Chancellor and Julie Krone. Form Studio and Gallery, 1/30 Aurora Avenue, Queanbeyan. Until September 23.
The three artists in Water drawn offer three very different visual languages and ways of expressing the exhibition's (very) nominal subject – water.
Heather Burness's nine prints (in three series) are simply beautiful. The first five from the series A mist is a series of points capture the ethereal atmosphere that characterises the mystical presence that is a mist.
Each is quietly evocative and holds a fragility that is visually powerful and seductive.
The works are intaglio prints and the process used by the artist to create them is intriguing. In her artist statement she speaks of “placing [her] etching plates in [her] backyard and in the dunes at the nearest beach”. This action allows the steel plates to capture the condensation of nocturnal mists and in time to corrode. The process certainly works and the minimal palette and (ostensibly) minimally treated surface of each print holds the poetic evanescence of the natural phenomena Burness depicts in such visually powerful ways.
A mist is a collection of points – 5 exemplifies the artist's highly effective use of what is an essentially grey palette. It is at once immersive and embracing, and exemplifies Burness's sure grasp of the technical and the aesthetic.
The works in the second series, Emerging Sun – 1 and 2, again adopt a minimalist palette. The forms in both works are also minimalist, to the extent that they are intimated rather than stated. This formal inchoateness is however not at all negative and imbues a spectral atmosphere that holds the same seductive qualities seen in the first series.
Burness's last two works, Coorong/saltwater freshwater #2 and #3 are stunning. The layered veils of colour (blue) exquisitely capture the intermingling of salt- and freshwater as they come together in South Australia's Coorong. The veils are a shimmering, floating presence that speaks of visual and pictorial relationships while alluding to the delicate fragilities and balances that populate the natural world. The horizontal format is especially effective and imbues a softly lyrical rhythm across and through each work's spatial configuration.
Burness reveals a special and significant voice in the beautifully nuanced selection of works that grace the gallery spaces in this exhibition.
Susan Chancellor also shows nine works, each an oil monotype. In her statement she says that “the monotypes in “water drawn” are responses to [her] lived experiences with the atmospherics of weather explored through the themes of time, space, memory and transition”.
The works are presented in a type of scroll format slightly reminiscent of the manner the viewer is walked through a Chinese landscape.
In Chancellor's work viewers do not so much walk through as experience her landscapes. The use of “landscape” is arguably not quite correct in relation to the artist's almost structureless compositions. She is more concerned with reactions to natural phenomena than describing the landscape where these take place.
Teach work with its amalgamation of marks, gestures, objects hints at natural geographies. Definition though is never present.
Chancellor's space as depicted also carries hints of ambiguity. The viewer could be looking up into space, directly confronting it, or indeed doing both simultaneously. This imbues the dynamism that the artist ascribes to the monotype in her statement. This characteristic is, however, diluted by the overall decorative effect of the work's surfaces.
The artist needs to eschew the repetitive pictorial patterning that characterises much of the work here. The best works - Flow (Cat. 16), Between (Cat. 17) and Circulation (Cat, 18) - avoid the invasive (visually and thematically) patterning effect through an astute use of white that raises them above the pretty to the (almost) dramatic.
Julie Krone's Flotsam is, as her artist statement puts it, “a symbol of survival”.
The artist lost her home and all its contents in the devastating Tathra bush fires earlier this year. Her losses included all the work made for this exhibition save the charred pillar that is the current piece. What remains is dramatically poignant – a harsh and potent reminder of the power of nature.
Krone is interested in the way in which words lose meaning when they are incorporated into art as visual patterns. The shapes and forms of letters become shifting surface marks.
Conversely, in this kinetic shifting the words from which the letters come hold a peculiar attraction. The viewer (or at least this one) was drawn to finding the words whose singular significance is apparently lost in their accumulated presence on the pillar of wood. Here the words “water” and “oxygen” repeated multiple times become simultaneously pattern and meaning in a complex interrelationship that is visual and literal.
The charred pillar stands as a mute witness to both loss and resilience.