Holding the Shore
Wednesday 10 July - Sunday 4 August 2019
Opening Wednesday 10 July, 6.30-8pm
“If you are on the South Gippsland Highway, it is worth a diversion to Grantville, a place where at low tide just along from the spindly narrow jetty, you can find yourself captivated by the shifting sandy stretches and pink muddy sediments where scatterings of mangroves look almost black against the glittering white pools of water. Taking my sketchbook, I made a studied drawing of this place, which has since informed and inspired the paintings in this exhibition, Holding the Shore.
Victoria has just one species of mangrove, Avicennia marina, which once surrounded most of Westernport Bay. Their extensive cable root system anchors and holds them secure in the muddy sediments, enabling them to withstand severe winds and tidal impacts. They play a critical role in supporting the health of the bay, its ecosystem of filtration, roosting habitats for shorebirds, and nurseries for fish. Importantly, they hold the shore from tidal erosion. Cable roots have extensions that protrude vertically upwards through the water into the air, enabling the roots to obtain oxygen and take in carbon from the atmosphere. Mangroves are the powerhouses of the bay, declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve. But still they are at risk from industrial development.
Drawing can strongly hold the memory of place and the embodied sense of being back in front of the vista, just as the cable roots of mangroves hold the shore. In these paintings the place has become reimagined, invented from memory with only occasional references to the original drawing, but held in mind like the returning and shifting of tides and sediments.
After a visit to Japan in 2017 I started painting with coloured ink on paper, discovering the characteristics and qualities of different papers and how each type responds to ink. Some papers immediately soak up the ink, others leave the ink to pool on the surface to dry, often with unexpected results. This can surprisingly enhance the painting or inspire a change from the intended direction, just as the encroaching tides bring change to the mangrove’s ever shifting shore.
The Japanese potters of the Oribe tradition shape the wet clay in a robust manner which allows the forms to reveal the working marks where the maker’s hand felt the clay. I very much wanted to take in that Japanese influence, and the seemingly accidental approach of pouring, dipping and dripping the glazes which fire in the kiln to become darkest gloss green and black on the white clay body. The mangrove subjects in my ink works on paper echo that Japanese aesthetic of allowing the elements and materials to work for you. Using large soft brushes, the ink sediments settle on paper to dry, leaving a history of my reimagining of the place, along with, I like to think, some influence from the Oribe potters.”
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