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?
“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about and with worms crawling through the damp earth and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 6th Edn. (from the final paragraph).
This is a famous quote, and I came across it again a couple of weeks ago in a book about the concept of the sublime in art, as it happens. I started to think about doing a drawing based on my own neck of the woods in sub-tropical South-East Queensland, with the plants and animals that are so familiar to me. It took a lot of work to plan and many, many hours dotting away with very fine point pens, but I’m happy with the result. I have submitted the work for a major drawing prize, and have got my fingers crossed for a spot in the finals. In this drawing I have tried to depict a dense web of interconnected life, rich with pattern and detail, through which the eye has to wander slowly to pick out all the animals (29 of them) and various types of plants (more than 15). The style of the drawing is intended to evoke the feel of 19th century hatural history engravings and also has been influenced by the complex fantasies of Arthur Rackham.
Just at present I am investigating paintings of the sky for the current study unit of the Fine Arts degree course I am struggling with. Although the thrust of the educational program is unremittingly “contemporary” (with all the overtones that word seems to have picked up when applied to art), I still could not go past Albert Beirstadt as a mentor and guide. Beirstadt was a German born painter who revealed and romanticised the American West in the 1850-1870s. Dramatic skies always play an important role in his paintings.
In this work I have tried to get into his headspace a little. Unfortunately, working from low resolution reproductions found on the internet, I have not been able to really see the details of his brushwork or get an accurate fix on his colours. I’ve tried to be pretty faithful to the original, but I do note that his oak tree seems to have morphed into an Australian gum tree. And his cow seems to have turned into a horse. It’s pretty rough and ready, having been painted in two sessions, and needing some time to be spent on refinement.
Painting copies of master works is a time honored tradition in art studies, and I can appreciate why this is so. As you paint you have time to appreciate how the artist has solved many problems of composition, value and colour.
Below is the original Bierstadt work. Beautiful, isn’t it?
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.
The rivulet flows
gentle as the touch of silk
yet cuts its channel.
For the final year of my Fine Arts study I will be working in depth on a single subject. I’ve chosen the local creek, Mudgeeraba Creek, which is a beautiful little spot. There will be a lot more creek paintings coming up in future months. At this point I am trying out a variety of approaches. Hopefully along this journey I will discover my own special way of interpreting this subject.
These are three paintings I developed from the small paintings I put up in the previous post. They are all scenes from Mudgeeraba Creek, a few kilometres down the road, right up in the headwaters of it, where it is very shallow. There is a fantastic quality of light there in the early morning, when the sun is lighting up the tops of the trees but the under-canopy is in shadow. The colours of reflections this makes is amazing – like liquid gold and green satin. The work is currently on display at Monet’s Art Garden Gallery, Metro Centre, Hollywell Road, Labrador. The mosaic table-top in the foreground is also my work, if anyone is wondering.