Softly Calling. By Hayley Lander. Form Studio and Gallery. 1/30 Aurora Ave, Queanbeyan. Until May 20.
Each of the 15 works in this exhibition holds a gentle beauty that when seen together imbues an overall visual warmth that is both inviting and seductive. Lander is a skilled painter and this is clearly demonstrated in each of her paintings. Her use of paint is not only technically effective, it is also visually attractive and used with a graceful nod to the thematic core of the exhibition. She is concerned with the relationship between man and nature and the delicate balance that characterises the coexistence of these two essential components of our world.
The artist takes a didactic approach to her theme but it is a soft didacticism expressed as it is through beautifully modulated images, simple compositions and a finely nuanced palette.
On the verge (Cat.1) is divided into two horizontal bands, the upper a soft grey, the lower white. An exquisitely painted partial brick balancing precariously on one corner crosses the mid-line. The bricks surface is beautifully rendered as are indeed all the motifs that are contained within the composition. Landers pictorial inclusions – brick, twigs, string – are each meticulously figured but not so that their depiction is paramount. The artist prefers subtle (but close) resemblance to the original to photographic realism. Subtlety is also introduced in the motif of the broken twig restrained by the tight diagonal of a string that pulls the straining twig back towards the left-hand edge of the picture. The visual tension here gives substance to the thematic voice in an eloquent and direct way.
Lander has used a circular format in a number of works to great effect. The largest of these, Unburdened II (Cat. 2) is placed within a frame of old tin (?). The rural connotations of this are underscored by the inclusion of fence wire in the image itself. The manner in which Lander incorporates ostensibly harsh elements with softer, less intimidating ones is especially nicely achieved. Her use of space contributes to this and in this work the depth of pictorial space is beautifully at ease with elements that disport themselves through it. Gum leaves (again exquisitely delineated) dance across the surface, their forms gently reproduced by the shadows that give depth to the spatial configuration. The artist imparts a lovely lyrical rhythm to the formal relationships existing within the circular space. This is reinforced by the graceful flow of the hanging leaves whose lyrical presence adds a further level to the splendid rhythms that enliven this work. Gum leaves intertwined with wire in a pictorially pleasing relationship provide a visual metaphor for the balance of nature with humanity. Here, that balance is a gentle one but nevertheless one replete with possibilities for future imbalance.
Other circular works are painted directly on to timber boards (Cats 9 – 11) or have black grounds (Cats 12 – 14). These exemplify Landers battery of technical and conceptual skills and her control of scale in the reduction of size from 71 centimetres to 23.5 centimetres in diameter without losing any aesthetic or thematic thrust.
The new nature (Cat. 6) is a small format painting (40 centimetres by 45 centimetres). This (and others of similar format) is a very successful essay in the expressive power of simple directness and minimal composition. The central motif is a fragment of broken concrete aligned with a twig with four leaves. The background is (again) divided into two horizontal sections, the upper occupying most of the picture plane. The palette of earth colours is warm and embracing. The twig sits comfortably against the concrete, the harshness of the latters surface an undeniable contrast to the fragile twig and equally delicate leaves. Its message is clear. The language that carries that message is beautifully achieved and quietly insistent.
The great forgetting (Cat.7) is a marvellous picture, technically astute and aesthetically stunning. The rich surface is full of depth that allows its “inhabitants” to move back and forth and through its dark, deep space. The contrasting combinations of the linear strings and wires with the organic and free-flowing forms of the leaves is reinforced by the formal interactions of these elements the leaves are suspended from strings or wires and float in a dense yet delicate promenade in and out of the deep space of the black background. The latter holds intimations of both the dark side of nature and the possibilities of that imbalance that pervades this exhibition, albeit expressed through a particularly refined aesthetic sensibility and pictorial language. This picture has very rightly been selected as a finalist in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize and may not be available to be viewed for the duration of the exhibition so I urge readers to visit the exhibition as soon as possible.
Unburdened (Cat. 15) is a large work (114 centimetres by 118.5 centimetres). It is a visually strong work in which (as in all Landers paintings) the background is not simply a surface to paint on but an integral and integrated partner in the successful aesthetic resolution that is characteristic of the artists work. The wonderful evocation of depth and space is seen here in Landers clever inclusions of barely there shadows over which the delicate traceries of leaves, twigs and wires conjoin in a lyrical dance that in some ways can be read as celebratory, an optimistic conjunction that intimates possibilities for a balance between man and nature.
This is a special exhibition. Lander is a clever artist whose combination of technical acumen, painterly precision and contemporary thematic relevance is powerfully expressed in a refined visual language that speaks as much of the insinuative power of art to inculcate ideas as it does of its ability to aesthetically enthral and embrace the viewer.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter