THROUGH THE WINDOW OF AN INNER ROOM
EXHIBITION TO BE OPENED BY PROFESSOR ANNE MARSH, 4 TO 6 PM, SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER
CURRENT TO 13 OCTOBER 2019
Join Email List
Wendy Stavrianos has held regular solo exhibitions since 1967 throughout Australia. She was awarded a Diploma of Fine Art, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (1961) and an M.A. Fine Art, Monash University (1997). Institutional exhibitions of Stavrianos' work include 'Mantles of Darkness' (1994, touring regional galleries including Ararat, Castlemaine, Geelong, McClelland and the Nolan Gallery ACT), 'A metaphysical edge' at Bendigo Art Gallery (2005), 'Night's Edge' at the Art Gallery of Ballarat (2008) and ‘Fragments of Memories’ at LaTrobe University Museum of Art (2011). Touring retrospectives to regional galleries in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales have been staged by the Sydney University of Technology (1999) and The Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University (1997). A monograph of Stavrianos' work was published in 1996. She has been a finalist in the Art Gallery of New South Wales' Sulman Prize (2001, 2002, 2007, 2009) and is a recipient of the Swan Hill Drawing Prize (2000), the Dominique Segan Drawing Prize, Castlemaine, Victoria (1992) and the MPAC Drawing Acquisitions Award (1977). Stavrianos' work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia; the National Gallery of Victoria; the Art Gallery of Western Australia; Parliament House, Australia; the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin; Heide Museum of Modern Art; the Australian Catholic University, regional galleries, tertiary collections, and corporate and private collections in Australia and overseas.
The inner room can be an artist’s studio, for private reverie, or an internal space inhabited when gathering in the threads of what has deeper meaning, and must be given shape and voice.
At my studio window I hang ‘Gathering Matter’, things I have been drawn to over many journeys over Australia. These have become well-loved and observed forms worn, dried out, reduced to an unrecognisable state after years of drought and time. The gatherings reflect back the harsh aspects of the places where they were discovered. They have become ‘their own landscape’. The forms have a voice of their own and trigger the imagination. They create a world of dark deep shadows, with a wounded beauty set against divine light that shines through the studio window, a light that bleaches all things to silence.
Summer’s ferocious rays have reduced all things in its path, golden grasses, white now, like snow, transformed by extreme contrasts, become part of the continuing cycles of life-birth-death and re-birth. As I observe these repeated patterns of ebbs and flows embedded by weather and climate crisis, I see the impacts on all things; the land, the water sources and the creatures that struggle to co-exist with us all.
It seems a new landscape has grown from this reduction, a landscape of ‘last remains’, that was once, and does not exist anymore, what it seems, has been forgotten. From the old growth forests in the early part of the century, only the shards of silver-grey splintered wood remain. The earth has exposed its elemental structures, revealing a sacred geometry.
I am a ‘Gatherer’ here in Central Victoria and a presence that watches all this unfold, observing and remembering from the inner room, and beyond, through ‘Landscapes of Memory’, connecting the threads, like beads on a string strung out across this land.
Wendy Stavrianos, 2019.
Mt Gaspard Studios Central Victoria.
'Wounded beauty' is a term Wendy Stavrianos uses to describe the cycle of birth and death, vibrant growth before eventual withering, and the wilful impact humans bring to their environment and its inevitable consequences. Contained within a bleak view of mankind’s misuse of its most precious resource is a wistful understanding and representation of the vestigial grace that remains, the structure revealed with the bones of nature laid bare by the stripping away of trees, foliage and natural elements revealing the geometric architecture that lies beneath, anchoring the natural world in place and balance.
Working this diminished and scarred landscape, Stavrianos’ attention searches for remnants of the verdant bountiful creation that preceded its denudation, in a process of gathering clues and artefacts that visually comprise the past, and the stoic damaged resilience of the planet and its structures. Portraying a world view of 'last remains', she offers awareness of an unseen environment from the standpoint of the artist, represented by the studio or inner room, with its window providing a portal between one reality and another. Incorporating the concept of architectural Phenomenology as applied by Gaston Bachelard in his book Poetics of Space which links spatiality and lived experience, she sees the room as a space that remembers our presence, and is always carried within us as an emotional and remembered perspective through which we interpret the external domain.
Living under the expansive Australian country sky has bestowed a sense of scale and breadth to Stavrianos’ discourse. Resolving a particular focus from her distinctive surroundings, she refines the greatness of the vista with physical and allusive windows; those of the studio and her mind’s eye, providing an interpretation that converts time worn and altered landscapes to shapes colours and textures. Strikingly described in Archaic Twilight is a large sunset sky mostly obscured by the intrusion of hulking, artificial edifices dominating the scene in a claustrophobic demonstration of man’s industrial footprint. To Stavrianos the forms have a voice of their own and trigger imagination. They summon a realm of deep dark shadows, with a ‘wounded beauty’ set against divine light that shines through the studio window - a light that bleaches all things to silence.
The virtual collecting of small fragments of nature’s remains, and imposing them on the developed world establishes a broad canvas to capture and display long held memories, loss, pain and wonder within the evolving context of civilization’s development. Stavrianos says that she frequently supplements present day observations and gatherings with past recollections of landscapes, relating how she connects these experiences like beads on a string, and ties them together in memory. Eschewing clinical photographic painting, she combines extraordinary, eerie colours and textures drawn from the setting outside her studio in the pursuit of an approach that is entirely psychological and human.
The sometimes ghostly and archaic qualities combine with end of day twilight pinks, deep reds and golden yellows to identify visceral pulsating rhythms that hold gothic undertones, and offer reflection on the propensity for Australian landscapes to be both brutal and magical simultaneously. Stavrianos often employs a triangular shape that secures the image, balancing dominant and delicate strokes to create figurative shell like shapes juxtaposed with fragile spidery lines. Prominent in Sanctuary and Connecting Threads (Beginning) these renderings provide the impression of sails and rigging, suggestive of a forlorn progress now in tatters and disrepair.
Utilising pen to resolve these areas of fine drawing, Stavrianos prefers to draw directly on the cloth for immediacy and employs a staining method of thinly applied acrylic paint which appears more like drawing or mark making. She enjoys letting the image breathe through the layers without varnish so that she can work quickly and with a degree of physicality to produce scenes that will be transformed by light. While Stavrianos continues to admire oil painting, she values the freedom of acrylic to keep the process breathing from the inside to the outside, freely invoked with a dreaming, swaying attitude.
Stavrianos characterises her current work as steeped in forms and symbols rather than purely descriptive, as evident in the recurring circular clock motifs that warn of time running out for our distorted and melting habitat. Other devices submit further evidence of human impact, describing cities, overhead cables and flags as developmental for mankind, and as a vulnerability for nature with their bearing on the environment, and the resultant destruction of habitat. Large nets emanating from the symbolic sail rigging metaphorically enclose what has been drawn in and captured, representing items identified by Stavrianos as sacred and cared for, spiritually and physically. Presenting a view of a dystopian yet somehow redeemable world distilled by the eyes of a skilled and articulate observer, Through the window of an inner room contains a tragic and beautiful narrative on the pursuit of progress and the resilience of this fragile planet.
1 August 2019