The Local Art Paper celebrates its last post for its inaugural year with a round up of artists studios that we visited during this years edition of Margaret River Regional Open Studios 2020 (MRROS).
Like all dedicated MRROS visitors we got our hands on copies of the MRROS magazine, had a coffee/chai together, and went to town with a highlighter. And as there are two of us -JP and DP- we saw some artists together and some separately. Then of course I lost my edition of the mag with the highlights…fortunately DP did not loose hers.
The wielding of the curating highlighter was influenced by many factors but primarily each artist we chose we felt we could tie into the bigger story of art history. We selected artists not just from their artist blurbs but checked their instagram and read their websites. The image the artists chose for the MRROS guide was almost last to influence us. We considered established vs emerging, a range of practices, our own knowledge of SW artists and our curiosity for those we hadn’t heard of. Lastly we looked at geographical locations.
The following list is alphabetical
Wendy had on show her latest series of paintings which were inspired by travels through Europe before Covid struck. The graffiti based works were derived from century old medieval cathedral walls, columns, tombs and floors. She is attracted to the build up of the markings over time on these surfaces, their symbolism and meanings. Her attention to the surface of these painted works revealed a very subtle skilled painterly hand and great depth of understanding for the ancient iconography. Basquiat brought graffiti to the masses in the 1980s but these graffiti works also reminded us of the constructed visual language of Twombly.
Ant creates wooden based sculptures predominantly depicting sea creatures both human and marine. We were attracted to the rawness of the wood, the originality to the form, his minimalistic approach and the tactility of the materials he embellishes with rough mark making as well as the humour. The apparent simplicity of his joinery was reminiscent of Northern American Inuit imagery and sculptures.
Kate was our 3rd interview for LAP, see the link at the end. This was her first MRROS and in her new studio. She was painting when we visited.
Seeing the evolution of her iconography from her earlier works integrated into the new works on show for MRROS was a take-away for us, the ways she revisits ideas and her ability to let the images grow as she works and reworks the surface is reflected in how alive the paint and color feels in her work.
Francesco practices a variety of printmaking techniques all of which are influenced by his classical training in Europe. Now based in Margaret River he incorporates an exploration of local influences, a diversity of flora of the SW Region using techniques for image making dating back centuries.
His images require taking a moment to observe and contemplate the subtlety of his printmaking process which brings out an earthy sensory experience.
A major drawcard for MRROS Kay has participated in all 7 MRROS events, she’s worked behind the scenes to bring MRROS to fruition and juggles being a TAFE Art Lecturer with her own practice.
Kays principal practise is printmaking. She employs a fumage technique of smoking the paper with a flame to create an image – fumage or sfumato are derived from the latin word meaning to ‘smoke’. Her work depicts the Australian landscape, fauna and flora. Her use of old maps, her constructions of native and introduced species and the delicacy of her fumage practice make you think about the effect of human presence especially colonisation and its impact on early Wadandi burning practices for maintaining the land here in the South West. Her finished works are rich in their presence.
A French born photographer now living in the South West Martine works in series, travels to inland remote destinations, uses aerial photography and has a number of ongoing projects involving living within remote First Nation Indigenous Communities in Regional WA.
She has a natural documentary style and engages with the unique lives of her subject matter. There is a dichotomy in her practice between the colors and patterns of her landscapes and the more graphic approach of her black and white portraits of community members.
Another big draw card for MRROS. Leon has opened his studio and gardens every year to the public and invited them in to share his world. Such an experience is a rare privilege for those who come to visit as there is a continuous flow between his life and art practice on show. Principally a printmaker, his work is full of detail, humour, imaginary worlds, commentary on daily life and oneiric references.
Just down the road from the Pericles studio and house is painter Rachel Coad. Her house and studio, which she has also graciously opened up for almost every MRROS, is almost the antithesis of the experience the art visitor will gain from the visually detailed brimming Periclean World. Rachels large works go from floor to ceiling, her images ‘swim’ in the calm void of her picture planes, and her palette is reductive to create mood and a sense of time. Yet both of these individuals are full time professionally practising artists and both show the same dedication to Fine Art pursuits and are both exemplary drawers.
This year Rachel showed a number of traditional life drawings and portraits alongside her large works in progress and works from her archive were on display in the house. Her own collection of local WA artists works were also labelled for visitors to see throughout the house.
Peter is a traditional landscape painter whose understanding of the light, texture and color in the landscape has been built up from a lifetime of looking and dedicated practice in the South West Region. His experience of living and observing nature, and of practising the art of plein air painting brings a mastery to his style and composition which he unifies through light and color.
Karen has a diverse practice encompassing sculpture, drawing and painting. Trained at the Canberra School of Fine Art when we visited she was blowtorching a small organic sculpture on her studio kitchen counter top whilst along the counter top were numerous small scale bronzes for her bell jars which she was prematurely patina-ing. They were beautiful to behold in their various chemical creative stages. Her small paintings of landscape scenes displayed a light and color understanding that was deep and thoughtful and her sketch books were available for delving into for viewing pleasure.
We had the privilege to interview Britta Sorensen previous to this year MRROS. Participating in the event since 2014, Britta gave continuity to her interactive installations, but with a twist.
The Pause was created as a response to the emotional side of the Covid crisis lockdown. The walls of The Farm room where Britta was exhibiting were filled with different phrases, loose words, exclamations that the artist had access through conversations within the community and her visitors. Everyone was invited to write a message on a piece of toilet paper roll – and here comes the twist! – having the option of leaving them in the basket or putting them up on the wall. A reflective space where the visitor could often recognise and reminisce their own emotions lived during lockdown period.
The use of toilet paper as a valuable medium to express the different feelings and sentiments that overwhelmed many communities around the globe, serves here as a subtle and clever reminder to what is really important in times of crisis. This contrast is also highlighted with jars of essencial consumable goods – pasta, rice, seeds, legumes, flour – as an exemple of rationing of food during other historical periods of crisis.
Chloe is a unique member of the MRROS community. She is a young artist, a young mother and a feminist whose practice embraces multiple media to explore her own lived experience of female beauty and empowerment. There is femininity, strength, humour and youth to be seen throughout her work.
Primarily a painter, she is a tonal colorist with solid drawing skills that underpin all her compositions. She turns her hand to murals, large and small painted works, more graphically composed cards and posters that have an inspired vintage graphic feel. She produces graphic design work for local industries and sells her work on Society 6.
Fi Wilkie is another of the MRROS circuit that has been foundational to the success of the event. She also volunteers behind the MRROS scenes to bring the event to fruition.
She works with painting, collage, printing, drawing, and runs workshops and her studio is a converted barn on her property. From delving into her many visual notebooks on show you can see how her practice of observational drawing, color experimentation and her ability to play makes her visual language uniquely hers. Her collaging of images works with form and layering to deconstruct and then rebuild. There is a fluid linking between her drawing practice, her cutting up into shapes and her creating of the final pieces that defines her style.
Finally, Fi Wilkie’s visual diaries signified for us how artists train the hand and the eye to work together through repetition, experiments, trials and errors to bring images into being and how that is the ‘oeuvre‘ the MRROS visitor is granted access to and what a privileged insight into the diversity of creative processes it is.
The gamble of moving the MRROS dates when the event looked like being another Covid patient is to be applauded as is all the work behind the scenes to make everything Covid safe for participating artists and visitors.
See You- Au revoir -Adeus- Ciao 2021