Paintings and poems take you by the hand into this country

 

 Three friends – two visual artists, one poet – open themselves to the country around them and to one another. What happens there, like life, is partly elusive, but also partly traced in the work on show at Watch This Space, under the title Beyond Conversation.

Through the work, they take us into the country with them.

Here are Pamela Lofts’ small windows (in oil pastel) onto, mostly, great big spaces, evoking their grand rhythms, their many moods under changing skies, the multiplicity of form and colour that gives the lie to the un-nuanced branding of this place as the Red Centre or the Outback, or even those friendlier common namings – the desert, the bush.

Here are Jenny Taylor’s penetrating studies (in oil on board) that build an architecture between land and sky, where sky and cloud give shape to the land beneath, where hills lose their mass and hang like veils one in front of the other, receding into light-filled space, where smoke fills the air and makes us see another country – poignant in its dimness like a remembered place (or perhaps a remembered way of seeing a place).

And here are Sue Fielding’s affecting poems (as wall texts and in a beautifully produced chapbook). While Lofts and Taylor are well-known, for most this is a first encounter with Fielding as poet.  She finds with seeming ease the word-pictures that situate us on a quartz hill, on the edge of a chasm, in a car driving back in from the west to town.

This is different from what the paintings and drawings do. They imply presence through a point of view, through the artist’s gaze.

The poems enact a presence – the speaker walks, climbs, lies down, watches, takes off her hat.

They also put others into the picture, with great tenderness – ‘Give me your hand’,   ‘I look at you’,    ‘the long form of you lithe / and unencumbered’,    ‘your lungs grabbing at the air’,    ‘you sat away from me’,    ‘I wept in my room for everything I / cannot change for you’.

They articulate the love that is the underpinning of the show. Love between people. Love for this country. Love for art, which is about much more than what we see finally on the gallery walls. It’s about the act of making art – not the marks so much, or the word-images, but the attention brought to the moment that allows them, the artists, to receive experience and then to give experience back.

The show is also about simple companionability and mutual support around creative endeavour. We can forget how generative it can be, to put something else on the metaphoric table other than food, drink and talk – and it is within reach of us all.

This is generous art, loving and open – if only we could administer it as a tonic for our town.

 

Pictured, top: Undoolya, looking west by Jenny Taylor. • Above right, Oil pastel by Pamela Lofts. • Below: From left, Pamela Lofts, Jenny Taylor, Sue Fielding. Photo by Sally Hodson.

 

 

At Watch This Space, George Crescent, Alice Springs, till May 5.

 

This is a version of the talk by KIERAN FINNANE given at the show’s opening on March 30.

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