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.
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.
It’s so good to be back into painting after the allarums and excursions of this year. Last year I made numerous visits to Tallebudgera inlet at different times of day as part of research for one of my Visual Art units. It is very beautiful at any time of day, but dawn in particular. This little beach is nestled at the bottom of Burleigh Heads National park and the sea eagles that live there wheel about over your head. When I was looking for a subject to paint for the local art society’s theme – Gold Coast landscape – this scene came to mind.
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.
In this figure study I was trying out a more graphic treatment of the background while keeping the modelling of the figure realistic. There is more to do on this work, but as the year is rapidly running out, I am posting it up now.
Always Emptying; Always Full – oil on canvas, 30 x 122 cms
This is a painting of my local creek. I’m going to be doing a series of paintings of this creek in the course of my university studies over the coming year. With this one I created a panorama of photos taken while standing on a rock in the middle of the stream. My aim was to make the viewer feel surrounded by the scene – not just looking at it as though through a window. I painted with very thinned down oil paint on an absorbent canvas surface, trying for the fresh look of transparent watercolour. The title comes from a line in the Tao te Ching – “the universe, like a bellows, is always emptying, always full.” The creek is my little metaphor for the universe.
I see that the year is fast running out. I must get on and post more paintings that are sitting around my studio. I’m pretty sure I’ve made my goal of 100.
I started this painting a while ago as part of the work for a uni course I am doing. I’ve done more work on it since, trying to capture the dramatic lighting I saw.
I have some lovely photographs taken a few months ago when I had a figure model around to work out some ideas.She did a bit of floating around in the pool as a break, the day being hot. Strangely enough I haven’t got around to painting any of the planned scenarios we worked on, yet, but I thought I’d give this one a try. I love the colour and shapes made by the water and sunlight. The painting is actually a bit more aqua-coloured than this. I am considering coating all of the painting except the exposed skin areas with two-pack resin to enhance the reflective look.