Uplifting paintings reveal the unseen

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“The Hawk and the Cloud” by Janet Dawson, 2014-19, acrylic and oil on canvas

Visual art / “Clouds All the Way” by Janet Dawson, Nancy Sever Gallery, Gorman Arts Centre, until July 21. Reviewed by JOHN LANDT.

THE bus trip from Sydney to Canberra can seem boring. But looking out the window, the clouds are in motion, forming new shapes, the light is constantly changing and reflections against the glass add to the dynamic spectacle.

For the past 60 years Janet Dawson has, through her art, revealed the unseen aspects of the everyday. The changing tones of the light during the course of the day and night, the vibrating colours on the crests of hills, or around the edge of the moon at night.

This is the art of mindfulness, when time has a new meaning. The empty blue sky in the largest of the paintings in this exhibition reveals a small bird high up, lifted by warm air currents. The viewer has the feeling of being lifted too.

“Night Lights 1” by Janet Dawson, 2019. Acrylic and oil sticks on board

Her art embraces abstract and natural forms, the influence of British lyrical abstract artists such as Ceri Richards and William Scott is apparent. But the constant theme has been a love of the processes and cycles that underpin the lives of all animals, humans and plants in the world.

There is constant change and renewal, as the seasons come and go, as the clouds gather and disperse, as the moon waxes and wanes.

Her art also finds comfort indoors. In one work, a dog lies on the carpet in front of the couch inside at night. Memories are also there, a photo of her late husband forms part of a collage in another work.

For most of my life, the warnings of environmentalists and the hippy generation have been ridiculed, while people have been hurriedly trashing the earth, perhaps destroying it for coming generations.

Art such as this asks the audience quietly to open their eyes, enjoy what they have and think a bit more about what they’re doing. In the words of Nick Lowe: “What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding anyway?”



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