It is that time of year when life gets incredibly busy and the blog suffers from a lack of attention but fortunately Dr Gillian Turner has found the time to write about an exhibition ‘A Journey West to East – Indian to Pacific’ by Annette Playsted, showing at the Drysdale Medical Centre. Special thanks to Gillian for contributing her review to Artin’ Geelong and congratulations to Annette for her solo exhibition of works inspired during her train journey across the vast Australian continent.
The word landscape most frequently describes framed views, traditional paintings about the land and seashore; it may also be associated with ‘picture’ postcards that offer the ‘best’ scenery in a particular location. Moving beyond its limited definition as scenery, the term landscape now encompasses ideas about geography, history, exploration and visual, musical and kinetic responses to space. Landscape is an elusive entity that can be variously described as a journey, a series of fragments and a web of inter-related events or experiences.
So how does an artist think about responding to an ever-changing space framed by the windows of an interstate railway carriage? The vastness of the outback, a seemingly endless horizon hour after hour, may well become ‘boring’, certainly not the material for creative inspiration.
Enter the artist with journal, sketchbook and camera! Add creative and conceptual intent!
Human interaction with, and movement through the land is fundamental to the whole idea of landscape, and this is what artist Annette Playsted explores through her powerful exhibition A Journey West to East – Indian to Pacific.
For Playsted, a structured emptiness brings into focus the glorious colours, subtle in their variance as they recede layer upon layer to the horizon. Working in chalk pastels, watercolour, acrylic and oil, her responses are far more than framed views. Each image offers possibilities beyond the frame: anticipation of change and the smallest hint of human presence in this outback wilderness.
The artist’s willingness to engage with the discarded rubbish alongside the railway lines is a significant aspect of this exhibition. Playsted has employed objects such as oil drums, old railway sleepers and barbed wire, as poignant and telling foreground statements set against the wild space beyond. Her confident technique ensures that colour, movement and texture make each image a visual journey of great delight.
Starting on Rottnest Island with a joyous little watercolour, and moving east across the Nullarbor through a series of extraordinary images, to the final clutter of Sydney Central Railway yards, Playsted has created an epic visual journey.
A large oil painting on canvas, Between the Wagons, between Nurina and Forrest, arguably offers the greatest sense of what such an epic travel experience is actually about. This work is unique in that it offers only a thin sliver of vastness. Railway wagons dominate the composition.
Here the artist urges us to notice the details of these overwhelming metal containers; their heavy coupling, and the various words and numbers foreground the wagons as structures both significant and worthy. Only in this work does the land itself appear to recede, but in doing so, the artist’s response to landscape gains an unexpected power; it is a necessary and vital part of Playsted’s creative journey.
Annette Playsted, Between the Wagons, between Nurina and Forrest, oil on canvas. Image courtesy the artist.
We are still learning to see where we live, and the imaginative apprehension of Australian space remains a pioneering exercise. To be appreciated, Australian space has to be contemplated from every point of view including the experience of journeying.
Playsted’s works offer a collaboration between a series of art structures and those who view them.
This is a must see exhibition and you’ll enjoy the journey!