Reflections of a landscape reconfigured through matter, time and memory.
It is a bold move to title an art show “Quintessence”, not only because it denotes the work within as ‘perfect’ but it must surely make the titling of the artists next exhibition a challenge – how can your ‘quintessential’ body of work be perfected next time round? However on entering Paddington’s Saint Cloche gallery to view Quintessence by Ingrid Bowen and Kerryn Levy, I understood it was not their work they were labelling quintessential, but rather their delicately captured essence of place and meditative visualisation of landscape and memory. The dual show presents work by painter Ingrid Bowen (Northern Sydney based) and ceramicist Kerryn Levy (based in Adelaide at JamFactory Studios) in a reflective and symbiotic relationship, allowing each work to speak for itself yet also borrow and respond from its neighbour. Inspired by time and memory, Bowen reflects on her visits to the Central Australian Landscapes of the West MacDonnell Ranges as a child versus as an adult. Using watercolour and mixed medias, Bowen explores how her sense of place and connection to the area is linked to memory and imagination. The artist explains how her childhood memories, captured in faded, round-edged old photographs, were increasingly fantasised through her life and ultimately created memories of a lost but ever longed for landscape.
“Revisiting the area, I’ve been able to form new memories and observations to build on those early ones. Those memories were confused and fragmented, tainted with misinformation yet remarkable in perspective and scale. Sheer vast distances and monolithic rock formations, naive glimpses and sad stories of cultural loss.”
[Images: Ingrid Bowen, Aqua. Watercolour, ink and acrylic on cotton board, 99x81cm; Ingrid Bowen in her studio, photo by Samantha Mackie; Ingrid Bowen, Mind The Gap. Watercolour, ink and acrylic on cotton board, 81.5x112cm. Courtesy: The artist and Saint Cloche Gallery, Paddington.]
Ultimately a show of abstract expressionist painting and sculpture, Quintessence has a beautifully minimalist aesthetic which presents colour through a faded, almost monochromatic, lens which allows line and shape to champion. The sculptures of Kerryn Levy are given the space and time to sit silently and powerfully among Bowen’s paintings, continuing and developing Bowen’s study of form and feeling. Using hand building techniques, South Australian ceramist Levy creates sculptures reminiscent of human, animal and botanical bodies in both a physical and metaphysical way. The undulating nature of Levy’s work prompts a clustering presentation in which the vessels nestle and dance around one another, fluidly and perhaps impossibly changing the angles of positive and negative space around them. Levy relies heavily on finger impressions, an inherent and bodily mark making technique, to build up the surface of the clay in a natural and tactile way that speaks of the connection between body, matter and land.
[Images: Kerryn Levy, Desert Formation 19.32. Terracotta (unglazed), 27x14x18cm; Kerryn Levy, photo credit Tash McGammon; Kerryn Levy, Entwined Pair 19.28/19.29. Charcoal (Dry/Mate Glaze), 43x33x29cm. (Entwined Pair: A pair of hand-built vessels, each form made to twist and turn around the other as if in a dance. These vessels are made to be displayed together as a set, at times one is required to lean on the other for support.) Courtesy: The artist and Saint Cloche Gallery, Paddington.]
Levy says of her work,
“The ‘Quintessence Series’ was made in response to Ingrid Bowen’s explorations in paint of the central Australian landscape. Focused particularly on the sinuous movements and unlikely angles of Ingrid’s tree forms in soft charcoal blacks, starkly contrasted by the use of bright copper and rich ochre reds”.
Perhaps the most poignant part of Quintessence is the translocation of line, space and movement from watercolour to clay. Responding to Bowens paintings rather than directly from the land, gives Levy’s sculptures a beautiful ambiguity which rarefies the object and invites a conversation with otherworldliness. The transformation from a four dimensional state (Bowen’s Central Australian landscape subject) to a two dimensional impression, to a three dimensional sculptural object brings with it a compromise of accuracy and detail. Yet in this process Levy’s sculptures become the lost and longed for landscapes Bowen experienced as a child – they are a reflection of a landscape reconfigured through time and memory.
Quintessence is on from Wednesday 3 April – Sunday 14 April at Saint Cloche Gallery, Paddington.