Majestic old trees, often knotted and twisted with age, are an intrinsic part of the Australian landscape. So too are endless skies, deep blue oceans and rugged rocky ranges. Mirjana Margetic is fascinated by the vast epic qualities of the landscape and depicts them in her poetic paintings, a selection of which is currently showing in Fresh: Emerging Artists Show at Metropolis Gallery. She often paints the trees, rocks and hills in a feminine form, inspired by myths from ancient Greece, and the Neolithic and Bronze age cultures of Old Europe. She sees parallels between the nurturing, feminine experience and the evolutionary role of nature, both always yearning for new creation.
“My attachment to landscape is not a simple experience but a deeper and more complex way of connecting with the land. Immensity is within me when I paint, sketch or sculpt,” she says. “My paintings are my quiet daydreamings where I portray the profound connection between nature and the feminine. The tall and beautiful tree is a metaphor for the female form. By comparing the form of a tree, hill or mountain with a female body I try to suggest the relationship between humanity and the natural world. I think I am simply identifying landscape.”
Originally from a small town, Sabac, near Belgrade in Serbia, Margetic developed a deep appreciation for art. She lived next door to distinguished Serbian painter, Dragan Markovi-Marcus, who encouraged her to draw and inspired her to pursue art. She grew up surrounded by religious paintings that graced the walls of every house in the village. Although entirely different from Orthodox iconography in style, Margetic’s paintings share the same luminosity of colour found in Byzantine church murals, such as the blue hues of Lapis Lazuli. The spiritual nature of these religious icons has also informed her work.
Margetic migrated to Australia in 1992 and with her ‘fresh European eyes’ was amazed by the intense light and colour of the Australian landscape. A skilful colourist, Margetic achieves a depth of colour in her oil paintings similar to that of pastels. She does this by applying a layer of paint, allowing it to dry, sanding it back, and then applying another layer of paint. She repeats the process until the depth of colour is rich and strong. Her paintings have up to 30 layers and she says it is hard to know when to stop. “It’s good when a painting is taken from me otherwise I can paint on the same canvas for quite a long time. I always go back and add more to my work in order to provoke things to happen.”
She uses her subconscious to guide her, so rather than a literal interpretation of landscape, hers is an imagined one. Her canvases provide entry to an ancient dreamlike world rich in symbolism and mythology.
“The landscapes of my imagination are a painterly and personal interpretation of an actual place. Sometimes, the attachment is not to the landscape itself, but to its memory and the emotional journey,” she says. “The object or landscape I see in the visible world becomes something else, like a magnified being. I try to go deeper and deeper inside it to tell a story. It becomes sacred and human, just as ancient mythology suggests.”
Margetic has been painting full time since 2005 after many years raising a family when she could only squeeze in life drawing classes and painting when she had the time. She returned to study completing a Bachelor of Arts at Deakin University majoring in Australian History. In 2008 she completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts (Fine Art) at the University of Ballarat and now works from her artist space at Studio 47.
Margetic cites older masters such as Michelangelo, Turner, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Degas as sources of inspiration along with Dali, Kandinsky and Klee. Closer to home, the environmental works and theory of Godfrey Miller and John Wolseley, and the mythological works of Robbie Harmsworth have also stimulated her ideas. Feminist artists and writers such as Ana Mendieta, Wendy Stavrianos, and anthropologist Marija Gimbutas are also important to her although Margetic is keen to point out that there are many others she could list. “I like everything that I can connect with. Even things I don’t like, I learn from them.”
With her intimate connection to the land, Margetic sees herself as an environmental artist and believes we all have a moral obligation to preserve nature and protect our environment. She is concerned about the degraded state of our waterways and countryside and hopes that by personifying nature in her paintings, it will evoke empathy for the natural world.
You can find out more about Margetic’s works on her website www.mirjanamargetic.com
A selection of Margetic’s latest paintings can be seen at Fresh: Emerging Artists Show at Metropolis Gallery, 64 Ryrie St, Geelong which is on until 12 February. Along with Margetic’s paintings, Fresh features the striking photography of Karen Mayo; bold linocuts by Janet Goldman; and a series of prints by Rhondda Millen that incorporates stencilled and layered screen-printed images.