Con­tours shape WA as­pects

William Yeo­man ex­plores di­verse views at Robert Ju­niper’s old stu­dio

The West Australian - - WEEKEND ARTS -

Con­tour is a spec­tac­u­lar new group ex­hi­bi­tion at Ju­niper Gal­leries, housed in leg­endary, late WA artist Robert Ju­niper’s old stu­dio in the Perth Hills.

Cu­rated by Ju­niper’s widow Pa­tri­cia, it fea­tures paint­ings, sculp­ture and ce­ram­ics by nine di­verse WA artists “ex­plor­ing em­bod­i­ment in our West Aus­tralian land­scape”.

This week I was for­tu­nate enough — as you might be too, if you at­tend to­mor­row’s open­ing by AGWA cu­ra­tor Robert Cook — to walk through the ex­hi­bi­tion and dis­cuss the art­works with each of the artists, or, in the case of the late Hills artist Thorn­ton Hick, his wife, An­nie.

Glen For­rest artist and sculp­tor Deb­o­rah RalphKa­farela says her work re­volves around in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships.

Her sculp­tures, us­ing found wooden moulds from Mid­land Rail­way Work­shops, com­bine a pre­cise for­mal­ism with the in­ex­orable patina of age.

“These works de­pict con­tour and con­cep­tual space but more specif­i­cally the con­tours of time,” she says. “But the ob­jects al­ready had this in­cred­i­ble age and his­tory, and I wanted to see what they would tell me, rather than dic­tate mean­ing.”

In­gle­wood artist Jo Mered­ith’s colour­ful land­scapes and seascapes, many painted en plein air, are alive with move­ment.

“I love work­ing in oil be­cause it’s very flex­i­ble,” she says. “And I love mov­ing. I’m a yoga teacher as well as a painter.”

For Mered­ith, the con­tour theme is em­bod­ied in curves.

“There’s that high you get when you come up to the curve in a gorge and you don’t know what’s around the cor­ner,” she says. “That’s what I’m try­ing to ac­cess. It’s all about the mo­ment, and the fun.”

Stephaine Reisch, who has a stu­dio in Bur­swood, also works in oils. As with Ralph-Ka­farela, she is in­ter­ested in time; as with Mered­ith’s paint­ings, there is also a lot of move­ment. “I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in pre­his­tory, em­bed­ded knowl­edge in nat­u­ral ob­jects in par­tic­u­lar,” she says.

She adds that the paint­ings in the show are “very enig­matic and hard to de­fine. These works in par­tic­u­lar are my re­sponse to con­tour. But they take an al­most an­ti­thet­i­cal stance to the idea of con­tour, in that they’re not about clearly defin­ing spa­ces but blur and con­fuse them.”

Win­ner of the in­au­gu­ral Robert Ju­niper Land­scape Art Prize, Alas­tair Tay­lor never thought of him­self as a land­scape painter.

“I was en­cour­aged to en­ter the prize, I won and now I’m stuck with it,” he laughs. “And then Tr­ish rubs salt into the wound by invit­ing me to be a part of this show.”

Tay­lor is def­i­nitely a land­scape painter, his re­fined con­cept of colour, form and com­po­si­tion grow­ing out of a “con­stant bat­tle with de­tail and messi­ness, al­ways see­ing what can be taken away to sim­plify things”.

Hick’s widow An­nie waxes lyri­cal about her late hus­band’s su­perb ink and wa­ter­colour draw­ings and paint­ings from across the decades, many de­pict­ing the rich colours of the Top End. “He got bolder as he got older and com­pletely cut loose,” she says. “I love these later works. They’re so dif­fer­ent and so beau­ti­ful.”

Stoneville artist Ric Burkitt talks about land­scape and mem­ory. “The paint­ings rep­re­sent an ex­pe­ri­ence of a par­tic­u­lar day, ever evolv­ing and mov­ing in the mem­ory,” he says. “I like to get some of that en­ergy into the paint­ings. Sim­i­larly, I don’t have a style as such: I like to move around and keep fresh.”

Sim­i­larly Bea­cons­field artist Steven Poo­ley, who orig­i­nally trained as a de­signer, paints mem­ory.

“I like to paint out­side, and I like to get the feel­ing of the time and place through colour,” he says, adding that his colours have in­ten­si­fied over the last decade or so. “I’m very in­flu­enced by Matisse and the other fauves.”

By con­trast, Dianella ce­ram­i­cist Tah­nee Robin­son’s del­i­cate cups, bowls and vases are func­tional and com­par­a­tively un­der­stated. The con­tour is clear in the shape as much as the slip (fin­ish), in­spired by the ocean. “And how the ocean laps against the shore, and over­laps with el­e­ments of wa­ter and foam,” she says.

Elle Camp­bell’s large-scale paint­ings on silk lean, like Reisch’s, to­wards ab­strac­tion. They are also im­bued with in­tense feel­ing, symp­to­matic of grief. “I was study­ing fash­ion and tex­tile de­sign when my dad fell ill,” she says. “The tex­tiles process — print­ing and dye­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing fab­ric — be­came my ther­apy and my cre­ative out­let dur­ing my fa­ther’s ill­ness and later pass­ing.”

A for­mer stu­dent and boarder at Perth Col­lege, Camp­bell was also heav­ily in­flu­enced by Ju­niper, who used to teach there. In one mov­ing paint­ing es­pe­cially for Con­tour, she brings both her fa­ther and her idol to­gether.

“Robert was such an in­flu­ence and quickly be­came one of my idols,” she says. “And with his pass­ing, and my dad’s pass­ing four years ago, I imag­ined them in con­ver­sa­tion up­stairs. It rep­re­sents what these in­cred­i­ble men, who never met in life, meant to me.”

Con­tour opens at 2pm to­mor­row at Ju­niper Gal­leries, 41A Dalry Road Dar­ling­ton. It runs week­ends from 10am-4pm un­til Au­gust 5 and week­days by ap­point­ment. Tours of the main house, fea­tur­ing art­work by Robert Ju­niper, are avail­able. See ju­niper­gal­leries.com.au for de­tails. Watch the video at thewest.com.au/en­ter­tain­ment/arts

One of Jo Mered­ith’s evoca­tive seascapes.

Con­tour artists with Tr­ish Ju­niper, cen­tre, at Ju­niper Gal­leries.

Tah­nee Robin­son’s ce­ram­ics.

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