Contours shape WA aspects
William Yeoman explores diverse views at Robert Juniper’s old studio
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.