“IAVA (Illawarra Association for the Visual Arts) is pleased to present Feast : indulgence, savouring and delectation. What a pleasure it’s been to bring our work up to the beautiful Belconnen Arts Centre from our coastal home base of Wollongong. IAVA is a not- for- profit, artist run initiative engaged in cultivating and promoting the Illawarra’s contemporary visual arts. We are professional, practising visual artists and art workers, seeking to forge networks, generate exhibition opportunities and develop professionally.
An artist’s life is a strange phenomenon. You’re obliged to snatch hours and minutes of creative time from a generally unwilling world. There’s hard labour with moments of brightness and epiphany.
The work in Feast has arisen from a range of inspirations. There’s celebration of the human figure alongside considerations of our relationship with the natural world. There’s work inspired by poster art and scraps of beauty gleaned from the ruins of bush fire. These sculptures, drawings, paintings and assemblages are in themselves a celebration of the richness and profusion of life. Bon appetit! ” From the Feast Exhibition Brochure
Who are the Artists?
My work is primarily sculpture, wall pieces and mixed media works. It is usually conceptual and made almost entirely with recycled materials. I have won many awards for my work, since beginning my art practice in 1999, including Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea in 2000. Turning unwanted, discarded materials into quirky, beautiful or meaningful things that someone might love, brings me great joy.
It seems to me, humankind moves evermore towards feasting on violence, image and self-satisfaction. We teach these through all forms of media. ‘The self’ has become all important. Greed and money-making cause a proliferation of ‘stuff’ and excesses as people indulge themselves in satisfying their hunger; their whims and desires. Honesty, integrity, tolerance, caring and contentment are becoming rare commodities.
I believe this is a symptom of the lack of connection to the spiritual aspect of our existence and is the cause of the mental and physical illnesses which plague our modern world. The different belief systems and religions have separated us into many opposing strands unable to work together within the web of life. The Dalai Lama recently spoke of the idea that we have come to a ‘post religion’ era, where we need to set aside our differences and begin to work for the good of the whole.
I believe everything that is, has the same universal spirit within and is all part of the one thing. If we damage anything or anyone else, we are damaging ourselves. My work attempts to illustrate that it is not through physical attributes but through this spirit within each of us that we connect to the universal life force and to everything that is, enabling us to find our wings and fly. Time to feast on love for everyone and everything rather than on self-satisfaction.
In this series of paintings Arrhythmia: The improper beating of the heart, Paula Gowans offers the viewer a palpable feast of sumptuous colours, against a play of negative space in which complementary greys are purposefully deployed. The disquiet that occurs in these paintings is characteristic of Gowans’ approach to imagery, as she tackles binary tensions such as perception and imperceptibility and memory and materiality. Here, the attraction/repulsion axis peculiar to abandoned spaces and their revenant populations agitate “the improper beating of the heart”.
As a former filmmaker and photographer, Gowans would not take it amiss if her work reminds viewers of the Neo-noir atmospherics of Twin Peaks or Fargo’s dark comedy. Her scenes are unsettling yet engaging, as a rough beauty is explored and convincingly conveyed.
A residency in Hill End, several years ago, has become a pivotal source of intrigue that Gowans continues to return; and once again the beauty and isolation of this place has roused these hauntingly provocative art works. Within this series, small emblematic works, such as the personification of Melancholia, provides clues to multiple narrative possibilities.
Paula Gowans resides in the sea-side town of Kiama where her studio is appropriately located in a cavernous building soon to be demolished. Gowans grew up in Chicago, received a BFA in film from New York University, before maintaining a career in journalism and university lecturing. She came to painting through an interest in drawing and earned a BFA (Hons) in painting from the National Art School with a body of work based on her experience as a film editor.
My work is about my perception of landscape, most often relating to my local world the coast of the Illawarra. We experience the land with our senses, coloured by emotions and memories. I use a variety of media and collage to make enriched paintings that create a narrative but also speak of my experience. These paintings are a feast for the senses.
My experience of Antarctica has inspired a series of works. They refer to the journey in its many and varied perspectives. It was the most extreme reaction to a site that I have ever had. The scale of the landscape and the profound colours, along with the cold and feeling of isolation caused me to want to capture moments and record the experience. I had feelings of wonder and alienation so different from my everyday life and land that I usually paint. I had to adjust my technique and palette to embrace the light, sound, water, ice, rocks and air that are unique to Antarctica. The vistas are ever changing, calm for a time then threatening and ominous. Making you remember just where you are and how insignificant you are! The Antarctic experience is about the sublime, awe and wonder. I have painted these intimate and grander works to express and communicate these moments. The artworks capture the light, textures and colours of this remote location and the coldness of the ice. Hopefully you can feel the cold and share the sense of awe.
I have been an exhibiting visual artist for nearly 40 years. Teaching and travel
have been integral parts of my life and have informed my art practice. In my
work I respond to political issues, my environment and odd current preoccupations.
In Feast, I have chosen the word abundance to describe my approach to the images I have worked with. They come from two residencies I have had recently – one in Mexico where strong sunlight often made unusual shadow shapes of plants growing in containers around the streets and along the Malecon, while In Vermont USA, I was in the midst of an abundance of snow. To stand in the silent woods, surrounded by snow laden trees and their shadows, made for an exercise in self-awareness and an opportunity for reflection in a quiet environment. Maybe I am referring to an abundance of time which gave me the chance to work without daily interruptions and without the tyranny of deadlines.
Life is complicated. There are competing demands, multiple considerations and contingencies. This can create a mighty abundance of confusion and distress, or (if only you’re in the right company, if only you can think of it this way) a magical ride.
Either way, there is plenty of it.
My work is created intuitively and without a plan. Very deliberately, I have no plan; I’d rather choose to empty myself and let the Universe decide what will go on the canvas on any given day. The closer I get to emptiness and lack of pre-planning, the more interesting (and often quirky) my work becomes. Of course, there is then the endless editing that all artists must involve themselves with to get to the finished product.
Again and again, when I look at the emerging work, I recognise that what I’m creating is simply a reflection of my life in more general terms. We exist amongst a feast of meanings, structures, relationships, and understandings – and then they break down or change. This is life: abundant, brilliant, contingent life. Bring it.
The sculptural form is a symptom of my need to create. I am drawn to explore the human form, sometimes solitary figures other times couples, families and groups in more complex relationships in which simultaneously conflicting perspectives are embraced.
I explore what it means to inhabit the human body; a location from which thought are created and through which inner states are projected. I work intuitively, influenced by emotion, memory, nostalgia, and identity.
My sculptures speak softly and are highly emotive. They explore private moments through the human form. My people sit quietly in the landscape and invoke peaceful contemplation. Most of my current body of work encapsulates the preciousness of rest, of a time to stop and think, of time to feast on quiet contemplation and to savour the deliciousness of life.
I am predominately a portrait artist and my work is highly influenced by commercial art and vintage graphic design. The phrase “Popster” has been coined to describe my pop art, poster style. My paintings are a visual feast of metaphors and symbols, to tell the story of the subject. Crammed with colour, typography and allegories, my paintings can be devoured by the viewer, searching and finding meaning in many of the nooks and crannies of the composition.
Likewise, my still life paintings are made up of metaphors. I see my still life paintings as another form of portraiture. All represented items are meaningful beyond the composition. In this case, the still life works are representative of myself and my mother.
My work explores the breaking down of objects and systems, including living and non-living systems. A scientific description would be entropy, that is, the loss of order over time and a progression towards chaos. In the work “Killer Instinct” we see an accelerant of entropy: predators. Snake eats eggs, bird eats snake, scorpion stings bird…. so, the predator has a feast. “Scorpion” and “Ramboard” are both created from collections of discarded random objects providing a feast of surprises. Finally, “Entropic Zones” is a collection of random pieces of scrap wood. There are zones within the work where the wood is chipped or aged in some other way showing signs of entropy and creating a feast of textures. The last work “Have and Have nots”, an apple core on half a decorative plate expresses the lack of feast for some of our poorest. The decorative plate references the breakdown of traditional crafts such as casting decorative works in bronze that has occurred because of globalisation.
My artwork and paintings hint at those fleeting moments when we truly savour the beauty of nature and the natural world; when we relish the present place and time.
There is an element of Neo-Romanticism in my artwork; an uncanniness that hinges upon an ambiguous sense of memory or nostalgia. The landscapes that I create are not of any particular place, rather, the scenes reside in a memory. The work communicates with subconscious and compels a craving for an experience of landscape or of place.
Within the artwork there is the suggestion that we are looking through a ‘lens’ (of our own interpretation). The paintings hint at photography and the image is blurred or corrupted to create the sensation of looking through (some sort of veiling, or a window / windscreen, or of rushing past [a scene] at speed).
This series of abstract paintings is a culmination of my Scandinavian heritage and the details of the natural world that I encounter on my daily coastal walks. The patterns that the water creates on the sand and rocks, as well as the almost microscopic details of the coastal flora, allude to botanical silhouettes that inspire my practice. I relish organic lines and cool tones that pair with soft whispers of colour, that allow me to express my love for the natural world. The arrangements that emerge in each of my paintings capture the stark, minimalistic features of Scandinavian design that creates a feast for the eyes.
The Finnish national epic poem Kalevala is the root of this experience; it beats like a drum in my heart and paintings. The majestic forests, flora and fauna of the two countries of my residence, Australia and Finland, are echoing and conversing with my memories.
In 2006 the Grampians (traditional name Gariwerd) was consumed by fire, but from that barren ground arose riches and abundance, a veritable feast. I logged my visit:
Flocks of cockatoos and corellas nest in the trees, waking me each morning on their first flight. Termites devour the decaying wattle trees, which, badly burnt by fire, produce a sweet resin to repair themselves. I saw the termites flying out of their nest to mate, shedding their wings at the base of the wattle tree upon their return to the colony.
These lovely amber resin bubbles were chewed, or else or soaked in water for a sweet drink by the original custodians, the Djab wurrung and Jardwadjali peoples. It was also used as a fixative for the ochres collected and used as paint. As visiting artists, we did the same thing.
Kangaroos lounge close by, chewing their cud. One could be forgiven for thinking the farmers were raising kangaroos, so thick do they lie in the paddocks. Emus still wander at will through the village and its surrounds, grazing on new growth, insects and seeds. Caterpillars skeletonise the leaves, a right royal feast.
Here in Australia we witness the cycles of Nature where feast can become famine, and with time, famine becomes feast again. One side of this great land can be suffering drought, while on the other there may be flooding rains.
My works in Feast are a response to this natural regeneration after being consumed by fire, and the spirit of Gariwerd. I’ve used objects collected on the journey: leaves, ochres, grasses, gum acacia, feathers, seed pods, bark, kangaroo scats, charcoal and found objects.