This exhibition of mixed media works makes a strong statement about landscape and the scrapping away of it's wealth due to human and natural forces. The subject of these images reference the Irwin River in 2001 when it ran in flood consuming flora, fauna and fences in it wake. The vulnerability of its banks were a question of poor land management which exacerbated the fury of the flood. Janet Yates has adeptly captured the force of nature as it rearranges itself and the fortitude of it's inhabitants after the fact.
The force is noted with thick swirls of paint that depict both the fluid motion of dark water and the sinuous twisting of twigs, vines and branches as they are swept into eddies by the torrent. Some evoke fear, others hope. For example After Alchemy there is calm ...and then... shows a tangled forest of vertical and horizontal pieces of trees with one strong upright gum wrapped in dark ribbons of raging river currents. The tree holds out a limb from which hangs a straight, still rope tied to the centre of a board; a child's swing. It is quite a powerful image as it suggests a reversal of nature. Properly, the rambling of the stream should be barely noticed while a child swings wildly, happily back and forth. One hopes all will be calm again, except for the exuberance of an innocent child playing in the bush.
Most of the works suggest how bits of nature have been churned up and put back in the wrong place. However, in Blue Wren in Search of Beauty the artist refrains from illustrating the title, instead she creates a well balanced and pleasing composition with texture, colour, and interesting mark making that suggests a sense of energy and emotion. It is a well designed work as each time it was addressed, I discovered something different. It's a very good 'painting'.
I was taken by the plight of the inhabitants around the river after the flood. For example, the owl in Paranoia; his territory seems to be inhabited by 'blow ins' as we detect a number of eyes half hidden in the tall grass. Then there is the bird of Can't wait, too busy who seems to be returning an egg to its nest before going off to look for others. The use of colour in both these works, as well as the construction of the images, engages the eye and imagination. While Choke offers the most rewarding of all, in its image and narrative, as it shows a new leaf growing up from the old devastation.
This is the first time I've seen Janet Yates' work and can say with all honesty that I'm looking forward to viewing more in the future. And I'll also look forward to future visits to this charming new gallery at the top of the hill in Kalamunda.
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