Ron McBurnie B e n Tr u p p e r b Ã¤ u m e r J u n e Tu p i c o f f
A P e r c Tu c k e r R e g i o n a l G a l l e r y a n d K i c k A r t s C o n t e m p o r a r y A r t s To u r i n g E x h i b i t i o n
Ron McBurnie B e n Tr u p p e r b Ã¤ u m e r J u n e Tu p i c o f f
Publisher Gallery Services Gallery Services, Townsville City Council PO Box 1268 Townsville Queensland, 4810 Australia firstname.lastname@example.org ©Gallery Services, Townsville City Council and the authors 2017 ISBN: 978-0-949461-24-7
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P e r c Tu c k e r R e g i o n a l G a l l e r y To w n s v i l l e 25 August - 15 October 2017 KickArts Contemporary Arts Cairns 28 October 2017 - 3 February 2018 Contributing Authors Judith Jensen Jonathan McBurnie Publication Design and Development Rob Donaldson Photography Ron McBurnie’s artwork photographed by Benjamin Van Houts June Tupicoff’s artwork photographed by Rod Buchholz Ben Trupperbäumer’s artwork photographed by Samuel Smith Acknowledgements Jonathan McBurnie would like to thank Eric Nash for his ongoing and generous support of this project
Contents Foreword 7 Dr Ju dith Je ns e n Ac ting Tea m Ma na g e r L ibra rie s a n d Ga lle rie s
Head in the Clouds, or, the difference between a fog and a mist 10 Dr Jonatha n McBu rnie D ire c tor, Umbre lla Stu dio c o nte m p o ra r y a r t s
Foreword It is with pleasure that Perc Tucker Regional Gallery presents the exhibition, Head in the Clouds. Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer, June Tupicoff and Ron McBurnie are well-respected Queensland artists and in this joint exhibition they have individually approached the same subject matter, the rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands World Heritage Area.
Each of the artists has depicted their relationship to the environment in different ways but underlying the body of work is an understanding of the complexity of rainforest, from dark tangled webs of vegetation, fireflies and birds to dappled light finding its way through the canopy of trees to the forest floor. Ron and June have created mosaics of colour and light, giving depth to their emotive response and experience while Ben has demonstrated the geometric and mathematical core of the rainforest in keeping with his practice and understanding of the physical materials he has worked with as a sculptor.
Their exhibition is founded in their enduring friendship that transcends their art practice. Head in the Clouds is a fitting title for an exhibition that presents the essence of the tropical rainforest of the tablelands. The exhibition demonstrates how the tangled, dense vegetation and mist, heavy fog and low cloud stimulate the creative process. Having once owned a house in lush tropical rainforest in the southern west tropics at Paluma and spent many hours working there researching and writing my thesis, I can relate to how the nature of the environment, particularly on a misty and cloudy day can cocoon you in your ideas and impart inspiration.
I congratulate the artists on their reflective and evocative approach to depicting our unique rainforest environment and commend their exhibition to you.
Dr Judith Jensen A c t i n g Te a m M a n a g e r L i b r a r i e s a n d G a l l e r i e s
Image opposite June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 8 [detail] 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm
Head in the clouds, or, the difference between a fog and a mist B e n Tr u p p e r b ä u m e r , J u n e Tu p i c o f f a n d R o n M c B u r n i e Image previous: Ron McBurnie Breach [detail] 2016 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 50 x 70 cm Image opposite Ben Trupperbäumer Creek Series [detail] 2017 Paint on wood panel 30 x 40 cm (each)
For obvious reasons, I cannot write this with any objectivity, and I doubt anybody that has known these three artists for any length of time could. Head in the Clouds has grown out of long term friendships, mutual respect for artistry and dedicated practice, and from conversations during and subsequent to stays at Ben and Joan Trupperbäumer’s magnificent high altitude cloud forest property, part of a contiguous tract of World Heritage rainforest on the Atherton Tablelands. This property, and living within the forestscape, has reflected an individualised commitment to conservation. This was in part driven by the transformation of their previous community, Mission Beach, from a quiet pocket of rainforest into an ever expanding tourist destination, replete with all of the consequences that implies.
The property is resplendent with rare native flora and fauna, and remains largely uninterrupted in its growth. The house is filled with books, music and art, with large windows designed for quiet contemplation of the surrounding foliage and the sounds of the many creatures which inhabit it. The works brought together for Head in the Clouds are all inspired by this place, an accidental but poetic reminder that not all contemporary art need be endless variations of last month’s art magazines dashed off by Sydney trust fund models. This is a place where the humblest of projects can bring about the most poignant moments of artistry, a stripping-back (or deliberate ignorance) of the machinations of the commercial art world and all of its trappings. This is an exhibition of three personal takes on a very specific and very special place. Through three diverging approaches, something approaching honesty is revealed.
My approach to this essay is that of an attempt at explaining the emotive and affecting work of these three artists, just as their works are attempts to capture something that is, in its completeness, impossible to capture. The rainforests of the tablelands and surrounds are almost indescribably beautiful, so much so that they defy subjectivity completely. There can be no debate over this beauty, so I start here with this as a given. It is folly to try and capture it in words just as it is in images, so I take this incredible and profound beauty of this place as granted, and go from there. The place itself is itself partially surrounded by farmland, a sobering reminder of the exploitation of natural resources of the recent past.
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer In the Leaf Litter 2017 Paint on wood panel 24.5 x 36 cm (each)
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Forest Studies in Red 2017 Paint on wood panel 24.5 x 36 cm (each)
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Forest Studies in Green 2017 Paint on wood panel 24.5 x 36 cm (each)
The Trupperbäumer property is undeniably beautiful, this is an inarguable, unassailable fact. And herein lies the challenge of the exhibition. How do three artists, including one resident, put forth a cohesive body of work about their connection with this place without leaning too heavily on its inherent beauty? The only solution would seem to be that one must go beyond beauty, a kind of sublime trap, and strive to articulate that sense of being there, working there, resting there. It’s probably impossible, but remains an enticing challenge to three artists who have all moved into the mature phase of their work, and are motivated by such tantalising artistic challenges.
In its infancy, Head in the Clouds developed out of a period of artistic frustration for Trupperbäumer. After years of exhibiting and public art projects, the sculptor was facing, for the first time, physical challenges. Trupperbäumer’s practice has always been intensely physical, an interface between the artist and organic materials, met with intense vigour. However, a change in approach was becoming necessary, an extreme challenge after four decades of practice. The Head in the Clouds exhibition germinated during conversations between the three artists, with Tupicoff initiating the idea of a joint exhibition that would challenge their artistic skills in an endeavour to create works in a new space.
A sincerity and clarity of purpose now guides their focus. Perhaps the most appropriate word for this level of focus, at once deliberate and unconscious, could be spiritual, but I would suggest that Trupperbäumer, McBurnie and Tupicoff have long since moved beyond that.
McBurnie, whose practice has always incorporated the study of landscape, has in recent years found a reinvigorated approach to working with the landscape through drawing, became a part of the conversation. As a long-time friend of both artists, McBurnie brought another very different approach to landscape to the mix, and a project was set.
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Bower 2017 Paint on wood panel 24.5 x 36 cm (each)
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Waterfall Gorge 2017 Paint on wood panel 24.5 x 36 cm (each)
With some loose parameters open to interpretation, opening the floodgates to three distinctive series of work, all deep-dives into personal territory, the works yield results that not only extend and challenge the artists, but actually push their work into unknown, previously unexplored territory.
Living in Brisbane, Tupicoff has had to adjust her approach to working quite dramatically, to better accommodate the distance required to work on-site, which is usually far more accessible. Tupicoff even notes a ‘sense of panic’ when she committed to the series, when considering not only the issues of access, but the subject itself. ‘I was worrying about understanding the place and leaving too soon’, she explains, ‘the landscape was virtually opposite to the wide open country I knew as a child, the cold climate forest, which is vastly different’.
Trupperbäumer describes many phone conversations with Tupicoff, discussing aspects of the place that she would need to reconnect with from time to time, working from Brisbane. Trupperbäumer recalls a particular conversation in which Tupicoff called upon him to relay whether it was foggy, misty or cloudy, and he understood then that the artist had come past a point of familiarity of the place, to a level of understanding which can only come after lengthy and immersive observation. This recollection encapsulates the intensity of focus that each of the three artists would apply to the project; all overcome various logistical and creative barriers before Head in the Clouds would cohere.
The rainforest had entirely different physicality demands, offering a complex series of artistic barriers demanding a complete reconfiguration of approach.
Top left June Tupicoff From Below 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Top right June Tupicoff Bower II 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom left June Tupicoff The Edge 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm
Top left June Tupicoff Falls 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Top right June Tupicoff Above 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom right June Tupicoff Bower I 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm
Top left June Tupicoff Golden Bird 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom left June Tupicoff Bower III 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom right June Tupicoff Seeing the Light 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm
June Tupicoff Lights Last Dance 1 & 2 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen (92.5 x 152.5 cm each panel) 92.5 x 300 cm
Ron McBurnie Flow 2017 Ink and oil paint on three wood panels 100 x 210 cm
June Tupicoff Rainforest / Longlands Gap 2014 - 2017 Oil on linen 139 x 184 cm
Despite attempting to describe such arresting natural beauty, Tupicoff is nothing if not pragmatic. ‘I start with a feeling, create a problem, and then try to resolve that problem. It is completely intuitive, and very difficult to recreate’. The artist assembles sketches and paintings executed en plein air, as well as photographs, subsequently taken back to Brisbane to serve as reference. To aid this continuing study, Trupperbäumer even went as far as to send a specimen box, filled with rocks, small leaves, plants, mosses, all wrapped in tissue paper. Tupicoff grew what she could, and these formed the basis for extended study, offering such insight into that ‘deliciously dense’ rainforest world.
The breakthrough happened while watching light dancing on the creek, a moment that Tupicoff credits as a moment of revelation. ‘Suddenly I understood the work of a lot of north Queensland painters, which had previously baffled me’, she says, recounting this moment. The painter found herself seeing the landscape with new eyes, ‘coming at the picture in a completely different way –smelling it–feeling it– the compost–like smells, dense and wet’. Another challenge of the series came in the form of the Golden Bower Bird, which Tupicoff spied briefly on a few occasions, growing increasingly fascinated. ‘I couldn’t stop thinking about it, it triggered something, it was so fleeting, so elusive’, recounts Tupicoff. Armed with a single Golden Bower Bird feather, gifted by an acquaintance of Trupperbäumer, the fascination continued over the months, with Tupicoff making some twenty paintings of the bird, who ‘continued to be elusive, and I was left with rainforest paintings. All of the bird paintings disappeared.’
The density of the rainforest itself brings a gamut of formal considerations, not only limited to structure, colour and texture, but light itself. ‘I found myself adopting a different attitude toward darkness’, Tupicoff explains, finding the elusive rainforest light ‘a bit of a trickster, it changes so quickly’. This readjustment proved an engaging and provoking problem to overcome, with Tupicoff closely studying, and eventually unravelling, the ‘little sharp shards of light, penetrating the canopy, right down to the forest floor’, which the artist relates to finally seeing landscape with new eyes. This, of course, necessitated the use of dark pigments usually absent from the artist’s much brighter, lightfocussed palette.
Top left June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 8 2016 Oil on Linen 23 x 28 cm Top right June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 6 2016 Oil on Linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom left June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 7 2016 Oil on Linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom right June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 5 2016 Oil on Linen 23 x 28 cm
Top left Ron McBurnie Forest Floor and rainforest 2013 Watercolour on paper 36 x 50 cm Top right Ron McBurnie Pervading Mist 2016 Ink and watercolour on paper 36 x 50cm Bottom left Ron McBurnie Dawn Mist 2016 Ink and watercolour on paper 36 x 50 cm
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Forest Floor to Canopy 2017 Paint on wood panel 30 x 40 cm (each)
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Forest Floor to Canopy (continued) 2017 Paint on wood panel 30 x 40 cm (each)
Images opposite Top left June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 8 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm Top right June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 7 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm Bottom left June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 6 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm Bottom right June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 5 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm
In the end, the rainforest yielded radically different work from Tupicoff: ‘Nothing was easy to achieve. It was a pictorial challenge to depict that density’, she explains. ‘Works become a map of changes of earth and mind’, Tupicoff notes, sometimes working over many changes in a picture, in order to keep track of the constant movement of light and forms in front of her, and to better capture the overall impression of the subject. It is almost as if memory of the place is as shifting and inconstant as the real thing.
Regarding the approach to such a daunting project, McBurnie’s attitude is no-nonsense: ‘I start with observation and work backwards from there’. Adopting a combination of plein air and constructed landscapes, sometimes within the same image. McBurnie’s works are a fascinating combination of en plein air drawings made onsite and then touched up in his home studio, works made from photographic references and combinations of the two. However, the process of inspiration and execution often becomes as entangled as the masses of rainforest vegetation they describe.
The disciplines that come from the place are all approached in different ways. Without the benefit of living on the tablelands, McBurnie and Tupicoff have worked as often as possible from life, and then depend upon reference photographs and recollections of the place itself, bringing a somewhat dreamlike quality to the works, equal parts memory, invention and observation. Unlike a photorealist approach, McBurnie and Tupicoff attempt to capture the feeling of being there, rather than a strict representation of the place. This is smarter than it may sound, for the sheer abundance of the landscape makes a tough subject. Like Tupicoff, McBurnie found the rainforest an intimidating subject, both in terms of its visual saturation and fecundity, and the obstacles of describing a place not readily accessible. McBurnie reveals that he eased himself into the project by starting with drawings of some of the tablelands’ rolling hills, before engaging fully with the ‘complex technical challenges’ of the rainforest itself.
Drawings made on site often become stepping stones for variations, some of which morph and grow into completely new compositions, or manipulated digitally to spin out visual devices and compositional ideas for new works. Several works have been mirrored and then extended outwards, an approximation of nature’s stunning formal perfection, and its organic willingness to leave that perfection in order to survive; variations on a theme, mutation, evolution, reproduction.
Top left June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 4 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Top right June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 3 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom left June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 2 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom right June Tupicoff Shadows’ Game 1 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm
Top left June Tupicoff Glimmer 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Top right June Tupicoff Shaft 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom left June Tupicoff Opening 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm Bottom right June Tupicoff Into the Dark 2016 Oil on linen 23 x 28 cm
Ron McBurnie Clearing 2017 Ink and oil paint on two wood panels 50 x 140 cm 38
Top left June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 4 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm Top right June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 2 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm Bottom left June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 3 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm Bottom right June Tupicoff Forest Jewels 1 2017 Pastel on card 39.5 x 43.5 cm
Working in inks on board, the nibwork that builds form and tone is a fascinating analogue to the etchings of earlier decades. Something of the earthy pigments, compared to the obsidian blacks and hard lines of etching, brings out the beautiful fragility of these scenes. The boards, primed with finely-sanded gesso, offer a hard but sensitive surface that can stand up to countless layers of colour.
All of these influences bring about a perspective on the landscape that is as much about describing its strangeness as its formal complexity, differing from Trupperbäumer’s more interpretive approach, and Tupicoff’s exploration. Similar to the work of Tupicoff and Trupperbäumer, McBurnie’s Head in the Clouds work has a notable absence of the human figure. However, unlike the others, some man-made forms do occasionally come into McBurnie’s drawings, bringing in ‘a human element, or a rift in the natural landscape – a flaw – that could be symbolic of human interference’, he explains, ‘whether positive or negative, things aren’t as pristine as we hope’.
Worked on horizontally so as not to risk destructive drips of ink, the picture plane is expanded, rather than enlarged. Colours are then built in layered glazes, building upon deep blacks and earth tones to areas of rich and feverish intensity. McBurnie likens the drawings, particularly those made en plein air, to memories, as he can then recall the sights, sounds and smells of the rainforest, the feeling of ‘being there working’. Memories then harden into narratives. McBurnie insists that these works are open to interpretation, at once an admonition of unsustainable exploitation of finite natural resources, and a personal exploration of a series of closely-held influences. These include the lush, fantastic illustrations of Rupert the Bear (which are also quintessentially English), that unique crossover between English folk music and psychedelia (think of Led Zeppelin drinking tea in a pasture), and Romantic English landscapes, including, as ever, Samuel Palmer.
Like many aspects of this work, the evidence of humanity can be read in a multitude of ways, whether it be a state of mind, observation, or political comment. The artist has eschewed the human form completely, although this was not necessarily deliberate, noting that while he did attempt a few works with figures early on, ‘the effect was too jarring beside the more dream-like or hallucinatory works’. The ‘surrealistic moment’ is a common descriptor used for visions or inspiration in religious or spiritual narrative, and is a recurring theme of McBurnie’s work, leaving space for the imagination to ignite. McBurnie asks of a drawing ‘Is it a fire, or afternoon sun? Is it a vision, or a trick of the light?’
June Tupicoff Bower / Longlands Gap 2014 Oil on linen 139 x 184 cm
Ron McBurnie Breach 2016 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 50 x 70 cm
Ron McBurnie Fire Within 2016 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 70 x 50 cm
Ron McBurnie Pathway Study 2017 Ink and watercolour on paper 51 x 36 cm
Ron McBurnie Pathway 2017 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 70 x 50 cm
Ron McBurnie Two Doorways 2017 Ink and oil paint on two wood panels 100 x 140 cm
Ron McBurnie Reaching up 2016 ink and oil paint on wood panel 30 x 40cm
Ron McBurnie As Kingfishers Catch Fire 2016 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 30 x 50 cm
Ron McBurnie Beneath an indigo sky 2016 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 37 x 28.5 cm
Ron McBurnie Pit 2016 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 30 x 50 cm
Top left: Ron McBurnie From the Wall 2016 White ink on coloured paper 55 x 75 cm Top right: Ron McBurnie Orchid Garden 2017 White ink on coloured paper 55 x 75 cm Bottom left: Ron McBurnie Morning Light 2016 White ink on coloured paper 55 x 75 cm
Top image: Ron McBurnie Forest Study 2016 Ink on paper 36 x 50 cm Bottom image: Ron McBurnie Dry Storm 2016 Ink on paper 36 x 50cm
Ron McBurnie Before the Cyclone 2017 Ink and oil paint on wood panel 30 x 50 cm
Rather than a vision or image, it was the jolt of a change of states, first physical and then manifesting in the emotional, which became a catalyst of change in Trupperbäumer’s studio approach. More so than McBurnie or Tupicoff, Trupperbäumer’s work for Head in the Clouds investigates scale. In finding a way of working that could better accommodate his physical recovery, Trupperbäumer began several series of smaller, more intimate works, and in effect, zoomed in on his fascinations, discovering the fractal mirroring of natural forms between the macro and the micro. The adjustment of scale also meant a reconsideration of focus, and marked a symbolic shift from the upper canopy and majestic tree trunks, following vines and roots to the forest floor, to what Trupperbäumer categorises as an ‘invisible order’, the biological breakdown and consumption of the old, reborn in the new, invisible to the human eye.
Trupperbäumer’s new body of work, as always, relies upon chance elements, with the artist’s responsive gesture as the start point for the series, but closes in on a much more esoteric representation of natural forms, rather than relying upon organic motifs inherent in the material. Instead, organic motifs resurface through familiar echoes of cartography and topography. These ‘Pictorial depictions of the decay and growth of rainforest’, as Trupperbäumer calls them, become indexical markers, symbols for this dense life. ‘Each tiny creature and microbe has a purpose’, Trupperbäumer emphasizes, again highlighting the complexity and fragility of these eco systems. This led to a familiarisation with approaches generally associated with drawing, with gesture as a foundation for new work.
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Fireflies 2017 Paint on wood panel 30 x 40 cm (each)
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Basalt Country 2017 Paint on wood panel 30 x 40 cm (each)
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Creek Series 2017 Paint on wood panel 30 x 40 cm (each)
Ben TrupperbĂ¤umer Flindersia 2017 Paint on wood panel 40 x 60 cm (each)
Trupperbäumer regards this body of work as an attempt, through picture making, of ‘describing something beautiful, even profound, without the use of words, and without being literal or illustrative, to somebody who has not experienced this beauty first hand, and perhaps never will’. The attempt is therefore flawed in its impassivity, in that it can never be achieved in its fullest sense. This is one of art’s most frustrating, yet inspiring follies– it can never be the real thing, yet in its attempt to be, it is made worthwhile.
Trupperbäumer brings formal order through discrete levels, layers and colours, which are used as separators of depth or relief, rather than descriptors. Some works are studies of form, others descriptors of feelings and emotions, but all appear to be an ‘ordering of life’, as Trupperbäumer describes it, as well as a journey within, a journey to the kernel of a thought, the start of a feeling. Trupperbäumer’s imposition of structure and rigidity as comfort operates in much the same way as McBurnie and Tupicoff’s anchoring of compositional access points in order to approach the rainforest’s visual complexity. These evocations of the rainforest carry with them the concerns, thoughts and observations of three minds in their silence. What is left, after the picture is finished? Tupicoff sums it up vividly and succinctly: ‘The sounds of the forest, crashes in the distance, falling leaves’. Trupperbäumer characterises it, ‘silent movement’.
The tension between geometric and organic forms, while evident in all three artist’s approaches to the landscape (all pictures impose the structure and rigidity of the picture plane onto its subject) is more emphasized in Trupperbäumer’s work. In consideration of the artist further exploring his ‘two dimensional’ approach to wood-asmaterial, It must be noted that his work has never actually been two dimensional– rather, it began to operate on a level closer in approximation to a two dimensional picture plane than his previous work, which is sensual in its luxuriant and fastidious fashioning of form and volume.
Dr Jonathan McBurnie D i re c t o r, U m b re l l a S t u d i o c o n t e m p o ra r y a rt s
Artist Statements Ron McBurnie B e n Tr u p p e r b ä u m e r J u n e Tu p i c o f f
Image overleaf June Tupicoff Light’s Last Dance 1 & 2 [detail] 2016 - 2017 Oil on linen (92.5 x 152.5 cm each panel) 92.5 x 300 cm
Ron McBurnie I always feel at home when I walk in north Queensland rainforests. I also marvel at their beauty, their complexity of growth and diversity of life. In previous years leading up to this exhibition I have made artworks which skirt on the perimeter of the rainforest and view it from a vantage point just outside like a visitor staring into someone else’s window. Although some of these new artworks still include small areas of simplification and human intervention, many try to make sense of the overwhelming complexity of life inherent in each small patch of the rainforest itself. When I began to make these works I continually asked myself how I could possibly say something more about the rainforest than just to suggest to people that they go into it and experience it for themselves. Gradually in the process of making visual studies drawn from life, I began to develop an evolving system of marks and colours which had a direct relationship to the forest and which I could adjust, transform and evolve into an alternate but tangential rainforest of the mind. I am honoured to be part of this exhibition, Head in the Clouds with my two colleagues and friends Ben and June. Special thanks to Ben and Joan Ben trupperbäumer for their friendship, generosity and passion for life and the natural world. Thanks also to artist and friend Robert Preston for his helpful technical assistance and insightful critical suggestions during the making of the works.
B e n Tr u p p e r b ä u m e r Living in a high altitude cloud forest, which is the landscape context for this exhibition, offers an everyday insight into the complexity, variability and serenity of this forest setting. Disentangling the complexity, making sense of the multiple visions and variations across space and time, and preserving this ‘specialness’, have been central to my approach to producing work for this exhibition. From a conceptual perspective, by focusing on contours and silhouettes, sunlight and shadows, and the intimate finer aspects of this forest setting, I have attempted, in an impressionistic way, to translate this into works which capture the imagination of those familiar and unfamiliar with such environments. My use of a limited colour palette and colour diffusions highlights the subdued tonal variations these forests display at the broad level, but which often mask the vibrant and unexpected contrasts and variations at a finer scale. My focus on dominant shapes and space relationships, an emphasis inherent to a sculptor’s preference for form and space, is in contrast to complex compositions characteristic of broad landscape perspectives. And yet at the finer scale similar complexity exists. I have appreciated this opportunity of working with two wonderful friends and accomplished artists on a subject matter that has allowed each of us to explore our individual preferences and artistic perspectives through our combined professional commitment to art. The time spent together and discussions had, have been invaluable, motivational, reaffirming the importance of creativity through imagination, respect, understanding and friendship.
J u n e Tu p i c o f f It began with a visit to my studio by Ron to work on his series of studio portraits 2000. A deep friendship was struck and he then introduced me to his good friends, Ben & Joan. These friendships have continued to deepen, enriching all our lives. The tropical, high altitude forest was new to me. Vastly different to where I had lived in my formative years where we were surrounded by hills and snow covered mountains. I needed to understand what made this rainforest so spiritual and mysterious. To get a hold on what it was that so captivated and resonated in me and try to convey the joy I experienced. The sensations I felt while being in the rainforest gave many clues that I could call upon: half-light, darkness, light, shadows, birdsong, crashing timber, water falling, silence, fear, solitude, violence, coolness, movement. I needed time looking, being still, letting the place seep into me. Back in my Brisbane studio I had to reimagine that dark forest so far away, and myself in it again. The result is the work of a visitor looking in.