IT IS ASTONISHING TODAY HOW the narrative of an artist’s work can alter with new conditions. In this issue of Artist Profile it appears differences in narrative are inevitable. Exposure to new places, cultures and histories can often release the unexpected in the artist’s chosen medium. The commonality of the artists we meet here seems to be openness: an ability to free the body to understand and connect to specific moments. Their brilliance is to remove the nonsense and to show us what we recognise but frequently fail to see. In this issue there are no impulsive narratives. Whatever these artists have made, came slowly and with their emotions. They reflect on important human values such as respect, trust, love and freedom. Their narratives have no direct links to each other. Yet as good artists before them for hundreds of years, they make their work to be seen by people who haven’t yet been born. Paul McGillick reminds all of us involved in Australian visual arts how James Doolin’s thunderbolt presence in the mid-1960s shifted the local narrative in painting. And how all Doolin’s paintings continue to give the present aspects of the infinite. Judith Pugh’s cover story on John FirthSmith has a fresh and objective narrative. After 50 years of painting by Firth-Smith, she contemplates why his new paintings have a crisper tactile quality, an immediacy, and how these paintings explore his life and that of Hill End. Through Fulvia Mantelli’s article we notice the meanings behind Anna Platten’s instinctive and brilliantly ornate, painterly work. Mantelli connects us to Platten’s personal stories to strike an unexpected link with a growing global paradox: the faster we are able to connect with digital communication the greater our disconnectedness from each other. To comprehend Zoe Young’s Salt Life series, Bridget Macleod takes us to unlikely places to discuss the varying inspirations in Young’s contrasting paintings. Whether in Thailand, the Southern Highlands of NSW or other places, Young hints at where the devotion to painting’s fleeting moments lie. Anyone intending to go to Vietnam will undoubtedly be enthused by Mai NguyenLong’s beguiling account of her recent residencies there. Inspired by the cultural diversity of Vietnam and the access to professional ceramic facilities, her work is full of surprises. Then there is the simple statement about making a new work that becomes a new challenge for Fiona McMonagle. From her conversation with Lucy Stranger we come to a better understanding of the physical challenges McMonagle undertakes to make new works. The force of pantheism in sculpture is made clear by Michael Buzacott’s conversation with Sonia Legge; this will provoke anyone unsure of the duality of the body and the spirit. Buzacott’s narration of the inevitable moves you to bathe in the physical presence of his works and to be overwhelmed by the sculptor’s ability to infuse the work with ideas and reflections on the history of art. A final impression of the stories in this issue are the contradictions and possibilities for those who seek an open life.
Robert Besanko, Untitled (South Melbourne Beach), 1978, Orthochromatic Kodalith Paper, 29 x 20cm (image), 30 x 24cm (paper). Story page 80.