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SENSE OF PLACE - Note from the Artist...

- this is the text from the exhibtion's catalogue. To view the catalogue itself click here

- to read the dialogues for each of the 12 self generated landscapes click here


The Method

When I see a landscape exhibition I usually think of the artist going to some place to paint, sketch or take photographs for use as source materials. There are lots of ways to go about it, but in each case the point is a reference to 'the real thing'. Centuries of artistic wisdom dictate that this is necessary in order to do your subject justice. Failure to heed this wisdom usually shows up as gaps in our knowledge: over simplifications, missing details, lifelessness and just plain old mistakes.

Wisdom or not my landscapes are made up, complete fabrications in every last detail. They are not visions that appeared in my head and that I then transferred to the canvas. It is precisely that sort of active projection that leads to the pitfalls mentioned.

These paintings were constructed according to a process that relies on the passive, but more discerning power of recognition. That's precisely what's operating when you see that something's not right even though you might not be able to say what it is.

If it looks wrong, change it! Sort of natural selection applied to painting. The creative act thereby lies in inventing the sort of accidents that will lead to a successful result: in this case something that resembles reality and satisfies formal painting considerations of composition, etc. To that end the process at a conscious level is more concerned with these things than with issues of message or meaning.

At the outset the end result is unknown and can remain so well into the process. What comes out, however, is anything but arbitrary. It seems to be a sort of amalgam, a patching together of what one 'knows' - passively, is familiar with and something else, something of one's own that imprints on the work as a matter of course.

I have used the words 'Self-generated' in the titles of works as a reminder that these places are not real in any literal sense. The word 'Sense' in the title of the exhibition is intended in the more 'innate' meaning of that word.


The Meaning

So much for the method, what about this 'imprint'? How to read these paintings? 'Oils is oils' and 'landscapes is landscapes', but these ones are fabrications in every last detail. As I worked on them I had very grave doubts. Fanciful pictures of 'Austraya': trying to give the appearance of reality while studiously avoiding referring to the real thing seemed foolish, absurd, pointless. Looking at the paintings now it is hard to imagine just how bad they sometimes were along the way and why in the beginning I tried so desperately to counsel myself against the endeavour. I seriously considered giving up.

I listened to the radio as I painted. Matters of importance were discussed by people of consequence who all seemed to know things and be certain of their points of view. Meanwhile I tried to paint what I didn't know and to what purpose? I couldn't even make it clear to myself let alone anyone else. At least the radio distracted me from the temptation to exert the type of mental interference that only seems to get in the way of this painting process. (Think if you had to verbalise every action and consideration involved in driving a car.)

I was exasperated, but I couldn't or wouldn't let go. And then slowly things began to coalesce, to make sense, get easier, finally become easy. Slowly it dawned on me that the 'pictures of Austraya', were really 'pitchers of Australia'.


The Dialogue

The dialogues that accompany each reproduction in this catalogue are the result of conversations, exchange of e-mails between Stephanie Green and myself. They are a distillation of our attempts to draw water from these 'pitchers'. As such they only represent a way to look at these works.

For the most part they try to base themselves concretely on the image and not depart too wildly from it. Sometimes such departures do occur: in visions of non-existent sailing ships or men going to Gallipoli. For me, parallel with pleasure, pride and enjoyment there is, beneath these surfaces, a smouldering rage at the present state of our nation. In Stephanie's writings I detect a different emphasis, the issues arising have a different accent.

Pleasure and pain of suffering are companions in art as they are in life. If these works are truly vessels they will bring these ingredients in a way similar to the age old form that we are accustomed to in the theatre: at once distance and involvement. Personal reflection in the object of another's creation. Constrained by it the viewer is nevertheless free to find their own meaning.


James Yuncken

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