Review / Artists benefit from professional setting

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BELCONNEN Arts Centre hosts a biennial exhibition of Strathnairn Arts members’ work at the Gallery. Strathnairn members benefit by showing their work in a purpose-built gallery, rather than in the smaller rooms at Strathnairn itself, and this year the show was curated by honorary curator, Peter Haynes.

Anita McIntyre, “River”, “Creek”, “Dam” and “Lake”.
Anita McIntyre, “River”, “Creek”, “Dam” and “Lake”.
Strathnairn is home to many artists and eighteen members are exhibiting in a diverse range of media and materials, including printmaking, ceramics, sculpture in painted mild steel, and acrylic on canvas.

Brenda Runnegar is showing five framed works in pigment print on rag paper. Shadowy female figures are superimposed on different scenes – a shoreline, a dark, stormy sky and old buildings. In the buildings, the images evoke the ghosts of people who lived or worked in their stripped-bare rooms – a large refectory and a long and narrow corridor. These works are enigmatic and elusive, hinting at something darker than the immediate image.

Sculptor Leo Loomans is showing several works in heavily painted mild steel. I found the paint rather distracting, as it seemed to be thickly applied and the work may be more successful if they were powder coated.

Several artists are showing ceramics, and coincidentally many are cylindrical forms: Trenna Langdon is showing tall porcelain and stoneware vessels whose names impart peace, perhaps referring to the tranquillity of the studio at Strathnairn, located as it is almost in the country. Craig Edwards is also showing cylinders in stoneware with Temoku and chun glaze. The horizontal bands of glaze could be interpreted as being the skies and hills that surround Strathnairn.

Anita McIntyre, who until recently was President, is showing several wall tiles in her exploration of old maps of the greater Canberra region. She includes contour lines, water courses, tiny sketches of plants and textural markings on the surface of the paper porcelain. Two sets of four tiles depict waterways in the district and these are evident in the titles, “River”, “Creek”, “Dam” and “Lake”. The slightly irregular edges of the tiles hint at old maps which have become worn with use.

Sheila Lyne, handbuilt pale green high-neck bud form, 2014
Sheila Lyne, handbuilt pale green high-neck bud form, 2014
Another artist working in porcelain is Sheila Lyne, who is showing handbuilt forms in sculptural fine clay. The forms have the colour and appearance of being wrapped in leaves, and the resulting horizontal bands and lines are dynamic with surface interest.

Printmaker Jo Hollier and Barbara Dawson both incorporate stitching into their works on paper. Hollier is showing monotypes, and Dawson personal drawings and notations in ink she has called maps.

Samantha Small is showing a series of small colour photographs mounted on glass, titled “Westlake Project, morning frost”. Distorted images can be seen through a film of drips, melting ice, bubbles and drops of water, tantalising us.

I do wish there were more information about the artists and about their work available to viewers. While some are well known, others are not, and we are not told about their work or given any information about them. However, Strathnairn is becoming more settled, and members are becoming more experienced as artists exhibiting their work in professional settings.

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