THE THIN BLACK LINE.
From a technical perspective, the Thin Black Line has always been an important element in my work. It not only delineates parts, or all, of figures and landscape, but is a pivotal part of the composition itself, etching an emotional track through the painting.
I use it in conjunction with the natural movement of the hand, like a sensor of my own emotions. In more recent works I use the thin black line to incorporate borders around the perimeter and bring the work together. This exhibition showcases an acknowledgement of what have become personal motifs of how I express myself. The ballerinas, a personal favourite of mine, are rarely depicted dancing. My interest is in capturing the apprehension before the performance itself, or quite simply, the elation or sheer exhaustion experienced after a performance. The kite, mother and child, boy and horse, all celebrate innocence, exuberance, freedom, and emotion.
I’m often asked by others, where do I get the inspiration to paint? or " why do you paint what you do". Hopefully the following will provide an insight into the execution of my works and showcase some recent drawings.
I have said many times I don’t paint photographic images. I paint from my memory. I attempt to capture moments, feelings, emotions and experience. My work is a tapestry of everything I’ve seen and experienced up to this moment. Indeed, to borrow the quote, ‘history tells us art is not a mirror to reflect life but a hammer with which to shape it’! That's the way I prefer to work.
Things don't have to be dramatic or extraordinary to inspire. Warhol’s work is a prime example how painting the everyday mundane object can produce a masterpiece. Common place for myself is a mother embracing her child, we see it all the time, however capturing the moment with colour and being able to imbue a painting with the same depth of emotion as the actual moment… this is the Thin Black Line for me. It’s the fine balancing act of creating a nice picture or creating a work of genius.
My 1998 painting ‘Nothing Could Come Between Her and A Child In Need,’ is a brilliant example of how everyday events inspire me. I had read two books on the life of Mary MacKillop. I was waiting for inspiration to produce a work that did justice to all I knew about her, the board was sitting on the easel constantly undergoing changes. Whilst collecting my children from school one afternoon, students and teachers were looking up to the top of one of the school buildings. A young boy was on a second floor window ledge, extremely upset and refusing to come in to safety...and then a teacher leaned out the window and gave him a great big hug. I still clearly remember the look on the child’s face.
I worked all night long to ensure I held the memory of that moment, attempting to capture the depth of caring and the unspeaking bond I had witnessed. I strive to produce work which triggers memories and evokes emotion that viewers can identify with. In this instance, the incredible emotion of receiving a hug from a child. That’s when I feel my job is done.
Flying back into Australia from the U.K is one of my perennial sources of inspiration. I travel there often and never come back without marvelling at the size of the place, the fact that you hit Western Australia and still have seven hours of flying to go, amazes me every time. I am ready to start painting when I look down and feel the hum emanating from the land.
Years ago, I managed a team for a multi-national company throughout Queensland. It was pivotal in my art career. Having the unique opportunity to view much of this vast State from the flight deck of a Hercules aircraft whilst affording me the privilege of speaking and working with local Indigenous people was such an inspiration and so completely new for me. It has left an indelible impression on me which shines through in my paintings. For example, the Burdekin Dam in drought. The landscape throws gold everywhere with a thin slash of azure blue the only thing feeding the dam. Such an incredible view from the booming Hercules above.
Years later, about 1997, I was lucky enough to sit on the banks of the Clarence river with a young Troy Cassar Daley and his mother Irene. He and others were playing their guitars and telling stories. These chance meetings and connections blessed me with a new-found freedom in expressing myself. Inspiring me to capture the beauty and grace of our Indigenous people in their landscape.
Space and colour from all of these pivotal moments influence my work to this day.