The Sydney art scene is blessed by a stellar showcase of emerging and established artists whose works remind us that painting is still very much alive and, more importantly relevant, as a creative medium. Sure, the Biennale is filled with video works and large scale installations that are inspiring in their own right, but at the crux of the Sydney art world, in it’s homegrown heart; painting rules.
Successful paintings can be as exciting and inspiring to see as a Clark Beaumont performance or a Nam June Paik visual loop. Successful painting has vibrancy and vitality that captures a viewers attention and carries them away. Successful paintings articulate the subjects context through application of paint and colour, as well as the the energy of brushstrokes and positioning of subjects. And if you’re still not convinced let me just tell you: when you see a good painting, you just know, you know?!
Laura Jones’ recent exhibition Wildflower at Olsen Irwin Gallery encapsulates all that is great about painting. In Wildflower, Jones’ imagery is larger than life. Large bouquets of native flowers expand to fill the frame and stretch beyond the viewers gaze.
When she is painting, Jones is always moving; marching toward the canvas to apply paint and stepping back for perspective and to see the overall picture. The effect of this is thickly applied paint that has been well worked in the canvas.
Studying Jones’ painterly trajectory it is clear to see how she has perfected this technique. Earlier works are looser with wider brushstrokes and planes of flat colour. In Wildflower, Jones has tighter compositions created with smaller daubs of paint that results in more detailed works that viewers are instinctively drawn into, eager to see more. By filling her canvas and leaving parts of the composition spill over the edge of the stretcher, the artist is able to create a sense of mystery of what lies beyond the viewers vantage.
Although her painterly technique has progressed, Laura’s interest in painting floral still life’s seems to remain the same. Having worked for Grandiflora as a florist, flowers and floral arrangements have become the centrepiece to much of her work.
While Jones’ often uses a signature bright colour palette to create a lively and uplifting scene, there is an occasional dark undertone that filters through the canvas that mirrors the ideology of her subject. We typically think of flowers as being Romantic, capital ‘R’. But their undercurrent is tragic. Flowers are associated with happy occasions: weddings, celebrations, anniversaries. But they also represent sad events: funerals, loss, and apologies. This dichotomy has always been an undercurrent in her past work. But in Wildflower, we see a slight break away from this.
Still-life’s in Wildflower do not seem as fragile as in prior series. In Wildflower, Jones develops her traditional still life to include Australian native flora almost exclusively. Not only are the flowers that Jones has selected are chosen for their beauty or aesthetic, but for their durability and sturdiness. These are flowers that are seen unrestrained in the Australian landscape, able to withstand our harsh climates and seasonal changes.The effect of this is that it creates a sense of place and identity formed from our natural landscape.
By creating a suite of works that speaks to the Australian sensibility of place and landscape, Wildflower speaks to the time and inspired-painterly-place that Jones is working in.
Wildflower, Olsen Irwin Gallery, 2 to 20 March 2016