Jewel Box is another in the series of paintings I have been doing of Mudgeeraba Creek. I was walking along the edge of the creek one day when I noticed a shaft of light coming in between the tree branches and lighting up the stones on the floor of the creek with a golden glow. The richness of the reflections of leaves and branches, and the shapes and colours of the underlying rocks seemed to create a complicated sort of Rococco pattern; not a collection of mundane objects, but a secret cache of precious things. That’s why I’ve called the work ‘Jewel Box’.
Three views of Mudgeeraba Creek – 3x panels oil on canvas, mounted on board, 40x80cms each, overall 120×80 approx. Susan Skuse 2015.
I came up with this work as part of my Fine Arts Degree work and finished it up for the d’Arcy Doyle Award. I’m happy to report that the painting has found a new home, and, not only that, but another artlover has commissioned a similar work. I’m beginning to feel that I might have found my art “niche”.
For anyone who is interested in such things, here is my artist statement relating to this work, explaining the thought process behind it.
The aim of my painting is the appreciation of the natural world as a unity in which we are not objective observers, but an integral and undifferentiated part. For me, this involves painting in a realistic style and with an attachment to place.
My recent work has been based on a single place; a rainforest stream near my home. It is not that there is anything special about this place; there are thousands, perhaps millions of such places where the basic elements of water, rock, light and vegetation come together.
In Zen Buddhism there is a term, kensho, which implies a momentary enlightenment wherein one “sees nature” and also sees one’s own nature, with the sense that there is no duality between the ‘seer’ and the ‘seen’. My goal is for my painting to open the door to a such an experience.
In the set of three, titled ‘Focus Shirt, the top panel shows a distant view, which reads as a conventional landscape painting. In the second panel , the middle ground, the patterns of shapes are becoming more abstract, and in the bottom panel they are rendered more abstractly again, with primary interest being on the distorted shapes created by moving water and the colours.
Oil on canvas, 60×60 cms
This work is part of the series I am doing of a rainforest creek close to my home on the Gold Coast. I am interested in the optical intricacies created by ripples and reflections. Where the shadows fall, you can see beneath the surface to what lies beneath. Could this be a metaphor of some kind?
Another of this series of birds in flight. These are my sky panels re-purposed. I think the sky is equally as important as the birds, since the series is about the many facets of the art of riding on the wind.
‘Riding the wind’ is a Zen expression connoting the experience of samahdi, or ‘getting it’ which can come after many years of meditation, or suddenly, as when the Zen master gives his student a sharp blow to the ear. Either way, it is a difficult thing for people to achieve. Birds, on the other hand, naturally ride the wind. They are seamlessly part of the universe. This painting is one of a series based on sky panels I had made previously. I am interested in the many different expressions of the art of riding the wind shown by various species of birds.
My main interest here is in the sea and the sky; in the way these elements dominate the landscape and make humankind’s efforts at control look insubstantial. The sky, on this rainy day, set a sombre tone that was reflected in the waters of the Channel. The scene evoked thoughts about the transience and insignificance of my life compared to the sublime power of the natural world, and the verses from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam included in the work give expression to these thoughts. It’s probably not possible to read the verses from this image, so here they are:
Into this Universe and Why not Knowing
nor whence, like water willy-nilly flowing;
and out of it, as wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble-cast.
And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’d we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help–for It
As impotently moves as you or I.
A number of different processes and materials were used in this work. Silver leaf was laid down over some areas of the sky and a verdigris preparation was used as underpainting on the land and areas of the sea. The scene was then painted in acrylic paint. Some collage elements are included in the sky and for the text. The work was then coated in encaustic medium to give depth to the colours and to enhance the surface texture of the work. Details of the sea were added with oil paint and stylized cloud shapes were stenciled into some areas of the sky with the intent of contradicting a straightforward naturalistic reading of the work.
Summer storms have come
scattering the last blossoms
of golden wattle.
3 Panels – 92 x 45 cms each – oil on canvas.
This painting is part of my series titled Looked for beyond Seeing: Portrait of a Rainforest Stream which I’ll be working on throughout this year to complete my Fine Arts degree. What really interests me here are the simultaneous impressions of the water’s surface, the reflection of the sky and the creek bed beneath. Some of my other work has taken a more abstract approach, but for this one I have kept it quite realistic, just strengthening the underlying abstract composition and the naturally occuring patterns.
It was about this time last year that I visited the Blue Mountains for the spring Garden Festival at Leura. I got some wonderful reference shots of the canyon walls, including the one I painted this picture from, taken from the top of Wentworth Falls. This painting is built on a textured base of torn strips of thick hand-made paper to suggest the feel of the rock strata. I’ve used unblended rectangular strokes of strong colour to bring out the colour variations in the cliff face. Sadly this year parts of the Blue Mountains have already been damaged by fire and many homes lost. Fire is a constant danger in this region and I fear this summer is going to be a bad one.