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BACKYARDS curated by Waratah Lahy and Anne-Marie Jean 19 September to 7 October 2017

BACKYARDS curated by Waratah Lahy and Anne-Marie Jean 19 September to 7 October 2017

The idea of a big backyard has long been considered an essential element of suburban iconic culture, synonymous with the fading aspirational ideal of a quarter acre block and a modest home. Our backyards are important spaces: they can be practical, useful and fanciful, providing a space for imagination, creativity, toys, pets, projects and failed ambitions. They can be spiritual or community places, peacefully intimate or physically challenging. Despite most of us not having our very own big backyard, the spaces around us and closest to us continue to inspire. A backyard evokes an outdoor environment we engage with in our everyday lives, which we feel an intimate connection to, perhaps responsibility for - a place that shapes us and at times a place we shape. As times change, notions of what we regard as our own backyard also changes and broadens. In Backyards, Waratah Lahy and Anne-Marie Jean have curated an exhibition of paintings, ceramics, collages and video work that extend our immediate notions of backyard. The artists have observed and explored significant environments in their lives, drawing inspiration from gardens, both public and private, suburban streets, local neighbourhoods, cultivated landscapes and bigger and wilder spaces left mostly untrammelled by development. From representative to abstract painting, ceramics to 4K HD animation, the patterns of observing and intimately engaging with these spaces emerge through the colours, textures and images created to articulate experience and place. In exploring the idea of the backyard the artists have engaged with cultural, material and environmental concepts through a multitude of visual dialects. Most poignant is that backyards are experienced not as exclusive spaces but places that can be significantly intimate, vast, or resonating with ongoing use and cultural and spiritual importance. It is through the lens of backyard that we communicate a personal vision of a shared reality.

ANNE-MARIE JEAN Artist statement During 2017 I have spent numerous afternoons picnicking, painting and drawing with my 20 month-old daughter Camille at Lanyon Historic Homestead, a property on the southern outskirts of Canberra, managed by ACT Historic Houses. As we explored this wonderful rural environment just a few kilometres from our suburban home I reflected on the way Monet built his own garden as a resource for his painting; on the ways western representation do and don’t convey the experience of being in nature; of the Ngunawal people, traditional custodians of the ACT and surrounding areas including Lanyon Homestead. I recognised that to understand both a place and an artist’s perception and inspiration takes time. Lanyon Homestead, steeped in its own history and so close to home, seems the perfect venue to explore ideas of landscape, garden, painting, how we present our experience of place, and how young children in their own explorations of space, can cast new perspectives also.

Anne-Marie Jean, Lanyon with Camille 7.17.10 2017 mixed media on paper and board, 31 x 42 x 2.5cm

WARATAH LAHY Artist Statement These paintings continue to explore the enduring themes of my practice, namely, the ways in which we perceive the world, and how prosaic everyday moments reveal unexpected narratives and instances of revelation. I have specifically focussed on my own garden and the streets where I live. New worlds have opened up to me: juxtapositions of textures, colours and shapes transforming the known into the unknown. Most recently this gaze has turned to my front garden, a space full of trees, shrubs and flowers that have frequently been left untended (I like things growing but I’m not a diligent gardener…) I’ve been struck by the graceful lines of the bare branches and the ways in which they screen yet define the space. They provide a kind of loose grid on which raindrops, flowers, colours and textures are all plotted, and offer me a means to map this newly rediscovered space.

Waratah Lahy, Spring Place 2017 watercolour and gouache on aquabord 10 x 10cm

LEO ROBBA (courtesy King Street Gallery on William) Artist Statement As a landscape painter, one of my long-standing preoccupations is the ambiguity that exists in different views and in particular the changed (shaped) landscape. Whilst looking to celebrate nature I’m not looking to simply record what is in front of me. I’m keen to capture landscape (garden) interventions in such a way as to activate figurative elements in the landscapes that I see – as a way of describing the human interaction contained in these landscapes. It is often the views that people walk past or overlook or something strange or hidden (that once seen becomes obvious) that fascinates me.

Leo Robba, Landscapes Merging 2017 oil on canvas 138 x 288cm

ERICA SECCOMBE Artist Statement ReConstructed Landscape is inspired by exploring the National Arboretum in Canberra, a place where I frequently walk. In this work I am exploring an arboretum in its infancy to express the idea of time and a future landscape that is beyond our imagination. In our life-time we will see these trees slowly grow but it will be the next generation that will see this arboretum fully mature. However, because of climate change and other challenges to the natural environment we cannot predict what our natural landscapes will look like in the future. ReConstructed Landscape records my experience of this present time as a reflection on what it will be like to live in the near future where the nature environment will be predominantly reconstructed as the pristine wildernesses on Earth are further reduced.

Erica Seccombe, ReConstructed Landscape 2012-2017 single projection movie - 27:30mins, edition 1 of 1

LIA TAJCNAR Artist Statement This body of work, hybrid functional vase/planter sculptures, is inspired by the grander material textures into relation with one another. We thus work to generate a heightened sense of the qualities shared across forms and species, and an appreciation of diversity and the specificities of particular things. The processes of both gardening and painting involve exploring the potentials and resistances of things, of matter and of life forms. There are always failures and frustrations. In our interventions and manipulations in the garden and in the studio, we test out our knowledge of, and feeling for, the structures by which things hold together or the means by which a generative energy is brought to life.

Lia Tajcnar, Fig 2017 ceramic, wax epoxy, resin 59 x 62 x 31cm

JENNIFER TAYLOR Artist Statement I live and paint in Arrernte country, usually within a hundred kilometres of town. These paintings are of places with which I feel intimately connected, through relationships with Arrernte custodians and years of visiting. I don’t think of them as wild places at all. They are contained, but not in the way that a suburban house block is contained by legal boundaries. They are contained by patterns of relatedness, care and responsibility. Every one of them is home to some-one. There is no single word in English that fully conveys the warmth, inclusivity and centrality of home-places that resonates in the Arrernte word apmere/country. In my understanding, the term can mean home, hearth, heartland, camp, and dwelling place. This includes all those who dwell there – humans, animals, plants, insects, rocks and watercourses all are seen as sentient and held in kinship. Arrernte people repeatedly invite residents and visitors to Arrernte country to share in ‘holding’ and caring for it.(1) Taking up this invitation shifts my orientation to place. My backyard is not my backyard. On the other hand, the country in which I live is an intimate place which must be cared for. (1). Margaret Kemarre Turner, Iwenhe Tyerrtye: what it means to be an Aboriginal person

Jennifer Taylor, Remembering Inteyarrkwe 2016 oil on board, 61 x 52cm

RUTH WALLER (courtesy Watters Gallery) Artist Statement Both painting and gardening involve an intensifying, and giving shape to, our experience of the natural world-making selections from the spectrum of possible, bringing forms, shapes, colours, patterns, of Australia’s mighty trees and the detailed and colourful macro world of buds, seeds, leaves and flowers. I wanted these sculptures to create the impression of the heft and thrust of tree growth and the energised negative space between intertwined branches. Beyond the vista of the trees I also wanted to capture & contrast the little moments of colour, detail and form associated with the smaller intricate parts of plant life. My work does not set out to represent particular organic forms but seeks to share my wonderment of the strange, complex, richly-patterned and brightly-coloured beauty of the natural world. I wanted to contrast the sculptures, whose properties remain static and permanent over time and space, with the flux and flow of the ephemeral life of the flowers.

Ruth Waller, After Spring Rain 2016 acrylic on linen, 109 x 77cm


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Backyards 2017  

The idea of a big backyard has long been considered an essential element of suburban iconic culture, synonymous with the fading aspirational...

Backyards 2017  

The idea of a big backyard has long been considered an essential element of suburban iconic culture, synonymous with the fading aspirational...