Suzanne Archer was born in Surrey, UK and studied at the Sutton School of Art (1964). She arrived in Australia in 1965 and is based in the Wedderburn region of New South Wales. Archer has exhibited regularly since the late 1960s and is a recipient of the Wynne Prize (1994), the Dobell Prize (2010), the Kedumba Drawing Prize (2010) and the Eutick Memorial Still Life Award (2018). She has undertaken residencies at Greene Street Studio, New York; Power Studio at Cite Internationale, Paris and Redgate Residency, Beijing. Career surveys have been held at the Macquarie University Art Museum, Sydney (2016) and Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown (2019) . Archer’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artbank as well as significant regional and tertiary institutions.
THE WHISPERING OF LEAVES
EXHIBITION CURRENT 5 TO 23 SEPTEMBER 2018
Over the last three years I have been ‘looking back’ over my 50-year body of work, initially prompted by two exhibitions Suzanne Archer: The Alchemy of the Studio at Macquarie University Art Gallery in 2016 followed by Moving Forwards, Looking Back at Nicholas Thompson Gallery in 2016/17 and in preparation for a book about my work due for release in 2019.
I work thematically, and at the end of my recent subject of China I was ready to move on. This retrospective view of my own work ironically inspired me to revisit the landscape of Wedderburn NSW, the theme that I had focused on when I moved to the area in 1987 and which I had continued working on into the early 1990’s.
This landscape is made up of rugged bushland with scraggly gum trees with their gnarled and grid-forming branches and deep gorges with rock pools. We are visited by king parrots, rock wallabies and koalas. The sounds are of cicadas, bird calls and ‘the whispering of leaves’.
Suzanne Archer 2018
MOVING FORWARDS, LOOKING BACK A SURVEY 1969 - 2016
17 TO 23 DECEMBER 2016 / 14 TO 29 JANUARY 2017
LINK TO 'ARTIST PROFILE' EXHIBITION PREVIEW HERE
LINK TO 'ART GUIDE AUSTRALIA' EXHIBITION PREVIEW HERE
LINK TO REX BUTLER 'MEMO' EXHIBITION REVIEW HERE
LINK TO SALLY BAILLIEU & NICHOLAS THOMPSON EXHIBITION DISCUSSION ON RPP FM'S 'ARTS ABOUT' HERE
SUZANNE ARCHER: THE DEFINITE AND EPHEMERAL
“It is a process of elimination and addition, constructed of the definite and ephemeral” wrote a twenty-four year old Suzanne Archer in Mervyn Horton’s seminal 1969 survey Present Day Art in Australia. (1) ‘Definite and ephemeral’ is arguably one of the most suitable descriptions of Archer’s near fifty year practice. From her collage works of the 1960s and 1970s to her imposing landscapes of the 1980s and 1990s to the meditations on mortality of the 2000s and 2010s – a handwriting of abstracted line has formed the ephemeral connective tissue that supports the definite assembled forms of letters, numbers, flora, fauna and figure.
This exhibition ‘Moving Forwards, Looking Back’ is a small survey of the last forty-five years of Archer’s career, specifically her two dimensional work, predominately her painting. In a 2002 Art and Australia article on the painters of the Wedderburn, Sydney region, Peter Pinson observed that ‘Paul Klee spoke of taking a line for a walk, Archer takes a line on a reckless, intoxicated spree’. (2) Archer’s ephemeral, abstracted line similarly links the works in this exhibition. Its genesis can be seen in the small black painted curve in the top right of the smallest and earliest work Win a trip (1969) and threads and expands through the subsequent works of 1970s and 1980s, reaching its abstracted zenith in the landscape works of the 1990s before receding as Archer’s concerns of the 2000s and 2010s became increasingly figurative. The abstracted line nevertheless endures in these later meditations, revealing an ephemeral support and process driven scaffolding containing the definite representations of mortality and identity. The idea of the perpetual motion of the line is similarly important, the most recent work Bluesu (2016) is less than a year old. Archer’s practice remains continual, constant and compelling.
In an assessment of modernist abstract painting, Rosalind Krauss argued that the most successful works operate ‘through a structure of oppositions: line as opposed to colour, contour as opposed to field, matter as opposed to the incorporeal’. (3) What emerges is the ‘provisional unity of the identity of opposites. Line becomes colour, contour becomes field, matter becomes light’. Pollock described this result as ‘memories arrested in space’, especially prevalent in the binary opposition of figure/non figure, as image is absorbed into structure. (4) I would argue that comparable relationships reveal themselves in the tensions and harmonies of the ‘definite and ephemeral’ oppositions of Archer’s practice, where letters, marks and skeletons sit in dense, painterly and ambiguous territories.
As part of the 1982 Festival of Sydney, celebrated Australian author Patrick White selected twenty works from the Art Gallery of New South Wales for an exhibition titled Patrick White’s Choice. Included in the selection was Suzanne Archer’s Kites (1978). White commented that Archer’s works are ‘not inaccessible to those prepared to merge with them’. (5) I hope this small survey of Suzanne Archer’s work will provide much for the viewer to merge with, much as her definite figures merge into their ephemeral webs.
1 Horton, M ed. Present Day Art in Australia, Ure Smith, North Sydney, 1969, p.14
2 Pinson, P. ‘Common ground: Four Wedderburn Painters’ in Art and Australia Vol 40 No 2 Summer 2002, p.275
3 Krauss, R. ‘Reading Jackson Pollock, Abstractly’ in The Originality of the Avant Garde and other Modernist Myths, MIT Press, Massachusetts, 1985, p.239
5 Verity Hewitt, H. ‘Patrick White’s choice’ in Art and Australia Vol 36 No 2 Summer 1998, p.2469
BENEATH THE SKIN
26 SEPTEMBER - 18 OCTOBER 2015
For years I have collected photographs of the Mexican Day of the Dead and of Mummies such as those of Guanajuato and over the years I have filled my studio with cabinets of animal skulls and dehydrated specimens collected when walking in the bush or given to me by friends.
From 2003-2005 I drew at the Veterinary Science Laboratory at the University of Sydney during the students’ horse dissection sessions which resulted in several exhibitions. Not surprisingly I then turned eventually to the human skeleton as subject, purchasing a replica of a human skeleton that became my model in my studio resplendent in a hat I added to lighten the mood! This compliant model was strung-up in complex poses providing endless subject matter!
I am interested in exploring disturbing images that are inspired by a dark, uneasy psychological undercurrent and black humour such as the painting Two Skeletons Messing with my Head where two skeletons play with my own decapitated head.
During this time I rediscovered James Ensor’s Skeletons Fighting Over a Pickled Herring (1891) which provided a historical context for this body of work.
My art practice embraces drawing, painting, sculpture and installation often with them all being utilized in my work concurrently.
Suzanne Archer 2015
SUZANNE ARCHER’S SURVEY EXHIBITION ‘SONG OF THE CICADA’ REVIEWED IN SYDNEY MORNING HERALD BY JOHN MCDONALD
Suzanne Archer: The Song of the Cicada Published April 18, 2019 Suzanne Archer, ‘Thrumming and Drumming’ (2017) Suzanne Archer’s career as an Australian artist began in a blaze of publicity in 1969. Her first solo exhibition at Sydney’s Clune Gallery was written up in the papers, and splashed on radio and TV. It helped that…