The Muswellbrook Art Prize began in 1958 as the Festival of the Valley Art Prize with the winning painting Death of Voss by Tom Gleghorn becoming the inaugural work in what has grown to become an excellent collection of modern and contemporary Australian painting, works on paper and ceramics from the Post War period of the 20th Century and now the first two decades of the 21st Century. The Muswellbrook Shire Art Collection was created as a direct result of this ongoing acquisitive art competition.
This exhibition addresses themes of connection, dislocation and the pull to return to places once familiar. Coming from a peripatetic background there is a longing for familiarity and sameness however inevitably things are rarely as remembered.
Rather than the traditional art historical landscape, this work explores aspects of a landscape remembered or places once visited, the memory of which remains long after, and the shifting experience of revisiting as an outsider. The horses return as metaphor for the artists’s own restlessness and journeys of the past and of the future.
The Hill End Artists in Residence Program is based in Hill End, and managed by Bathurst Regional Art Gallery in partnership with the Department of Environment & Heritage NSW Parks and Wildlife Services.
The Hill End Artists in Residence Program has its genesis in August 1947 when Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale made a trip to explore to the former gold rush towns of Sofala and Hill End. Friend was so engaged by the character of Sofala and Hill End, that he eventually bought a little cottage in Hill End now called Murrays Cottage and lived there with his partner Donald Murray for a number of years.
Drysdale visited regularly, as did Margaret Olley, Jean Bellette, Paul Haefliger, David Strachan and Jeffrey Smart. Eventually Jean Bellette and Paul Haefliger bought a cottage which is now known as Haefligers in the town. These artists are often referred to as the ‘first wave’ of Hill End artists.
In 1999, under the auspices of Bathurst City Council and Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, the Hill End Artists in Residence Program was officially launched.
Adriane Strampp is currently living and working at Haefliger’s Cottage, an online diary can be seen here.
When art critic for New York magazine, Jerry Saltz, saw a reproduction from Adriane Strampp’s recent series of landscapes he wrote that it seemed to him to describe a ‘Metaphysical Highway’. More precisely, since they acknowledge no deity, these works insinuate a circuitous passage: from detailed Victorian dresses, to flowers on textile, to accurate yet unnervingly humanoid animals, eventually arriving at a one-hued, contrived, rather than observed destination that recalls Jean Baudrillard’s notion: ‘the simulation of something that is real by proxy; something which never really existed.’ At the same time they counter the postmodern preoccupation with the end of aesthetics.
Running through diverse subject matters is a mastership of her medium—a delicate touch with a tough or tragic commentary—despite their femininity. Among the Victorian ball gowns painted from 1991 to 1998, that are historically a female preoccupation, is a wedding dress without either a bride to wear it or a groom to marry. Complete with finely described bodices and expanded skirts, these dresses stand disarmingly, surveying rolling fields and hedgerows that customarily convey romantic sentiments, but here summon an existential air. Albeit with supreme subtlety, this landscape might just consume them.
A stay in Umbria in 1998 led to the analysis of the Renaissance art seen there. Consequently, conventional composition was disrupted to produce a divided picture comprising details of period clothing, again with an unseen wearer, and close-ups of fabric detail. A not quite hyperreal white hare also takes a prominent role in a re-engineered landscape in which flowers occupy an unnatural position across the canvas. In the next series, enormous flower heads, sometimes without stems, sit lonely and transcendent, as if sensing a painful fate as they sink into the canvas like ash into soil.
In 2011 Strampp was offered a residency with Taronga Zoo. On contracting pleurisy and finding herself too weak to paint, she made finely drawn and gently modelled, almost life-size sketches of its residents, notably the tapirs, focussing on their vulnerability. Again the hare joins them to warily, yet knowingly, observe their viewers. These charcoal drawings, by definition in shades of black and white, were succeeded by landscapes in which subjects are insubstantial, momentarily incandescent and described in monochrome.
It is impossible, given the inclusion of road and tree-like imagery in the Rosafarben (pink) paintings, to read them other than as depictions of journeys and landscapes, and there is in fact an autobiographical impulse in a 2012 return to her birthplace in Wisconsin, USA, when Strampp reacquainted herself with its local forest trees. But to define these works as pure landscape is to locate them in the terrestrial and thereby limit their scope. The Wisconsin scenes were remembered indistinctly and were not exactly as they had once been; as they were seen through from a car window they were not perceived clearly a second time around. Everything about these works is at least once removed; there is a familiarity, but it is an insecure recollection. Sometimes there is a step back, such as in the use of the German word ‘vorbeigehen’ (to pass by) for a series title, so as to create a distance between the work and the viewer, suggesting at once a cloudy impression of autobiography—in that Strampp has German ancestors—and long gone landscape standards such as those in work by Constable and Turner.
Painterliness is as important as the narrative stimulus from which it arises. Aqueous pigment is allowed to run freely allowing chance to take fleeting compositional control while images appear and disappear as mists and reflections. With the use of wax and delicate washes images dissolve and at the same time disconnect, so reflecting Strampp’s own peripatetic childhood that due to constant upheaval, was experienced as separation, transience and loss.
In the Rosafarben works, the Australian, harsh-continent landscape model is contradicted, suggesting the watercolour rather than the oil tradition, while positing an emotional, yet powerful reinterpretation of it as female.
Dr. Traudi Allen is a writer and art historian and an Adjunct Fellow with the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. She has recently published John Perceval: Art and Life (MUP).
Saltz, Jerry, Instagram, 30 Dec. 2015
Fleming, John and Honour, Hugh The Visual Arts: A History, 3rd. Edition. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, 1991. p. 680-7.
Described by Frederic Jameson as ‘a culture of degraded landscape of schlock and kitsch’, Jameson, ‘Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late Capitalism’, New Left Review 1984, p. 65, 55 in Contemporary Cultural Theory, Milner, Andrew, p.107.
Email communication between Adriane Strampp and Traudi Allen, 5 March 2016.
Traudi Allen interview with Adriane Strampp, studio, 236 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 26 February 2016.
Mirror 2014 selected for the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing. Charcoal and wax on board, 50 x 50cm
Adelaide Perry Gallery The Croydon Centre for Art Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Sydney Boundary St Croydon NSW 2132
The Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing Exhibition of Finalists 2015 will be officially opened at Adelaide Perry Gallery on Friday 27 February at 7 pm.
Special guest speaker Mr Glen Barkley, curator, will make the opening announcements and this year’s judge, Mr Peter Kingston AM, will present this year’s winner with the $25,000 acquisitive prize.
From over 480 entries Peter Kingston created a shortlist 43 artworks.
In a statement about the process Mr Kingston said:
In judging the drawings I have been guided by the words of Vincent Van Gogh: ‘The figure of a labourer – some furrows in a ploughed field – a bit of sand, sea and sky -are serious subjects, so difficult, but at the same time so beautiful, that it is indeed worth while to devote one’s life to the task of expressing the poetry hidden in them.’
And my friend, the late Martin Sharp: ‘To make visible the invisible.’
This is no mean task to achieve, as one not only has to actually commence work but also leave one’s self open to chance and unexpected diversions along the way. To make a record of this journey is what I was looking out for.
The finalists I have chosen have, in my view and experience, come some way towards achieving this.