More on Abstraction and Nature

Rock and fungi, Tasmania, 2007

Two of the comments to my earlier post, Threading through Abstraction, Micro and Macro, came in from Down Under. Both of these writers offered a thoughtful expansion of the discussion I began in my post. My experience is that this issue of nature and abstraction has particular significance in the aesthetic milieu that is Australian contemporary art. Both of these comments bring that unique sensibility to bear.

Here are a few excerpts that are worth sharing:

About 15 yrs ago I heard it said – in relation to the meeting of the original inhabitants of Australia with the white settlers from Britain in 1788 – that this was a low tech, high psyche people meeting a high tech, low psyche people – and whilst that may come across as a clumsy or even deeply problematic statement… it certainly provoked me to ruminate on the notion of “high psyche” and divert my attention to conceptual underpinnings of the Art of Indigenous Australia – be it from Rock engravings suggested to be many thousands of years old, to bark paintings dating back hundreds of years or recent works on canvas.

I’m deeply embarrassed to think of what was taught in school during my school years in the 60’s/70’s regarding the very people whose Art has given me so much.

–Sophie Munn

The subject fascinates me and in here in Australia the dialogue, I feel, is a bit one sided. That is the indigenous contribution so outweighs the non-indigenous one that I get frustrated. We painters committed to “abstract” picture making take risks that perhaps (and the representational painters might take offense to this) separate us by the nature of the risks we take. “Just try”, I ask the landscape painters in my head when I see their paintings, “to walk into the studio without your subject matter staring you in the face.”

The indigenous artists need not do this of course because it isn’t staring them right in the face, it’s inside of them, the same way our imagery dwells within us. Have a look at some of the paintings recently on display at Utopia Fine art in Sydney this month. It never ceases to amaze me how “contemporary” the work looks.

Our language is universal—modernist or not.

–Gordon Waters

BTW, both Sophie and Gordon are gifted artists. You can see more of their work here:

Sophie Munns

Gordon Waters

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