Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre has had a succession of diverse and captivating exhibitions this year. We’ve featured Kim Scott’s design-minded Katherine Tropical Houses, Laurence Rimes’s contemporary paintings from Daly River life, group exhibitions from Waralungku, Ngukurr, Merrepen, and Djilpin Arts Centres, contemporary ceramics installations by Dawn Beasley, and provocative Artificial Intelligence dominated works called Artists Need Not Apply. Next up is the sublime landscape painter Rachelle McLean and her K Space exhibition, Colour and Texture of the NT.
Please join us for the opening reception and meet the artist after work on Friday 23 September. The gallery event will be held in conjunction with Godinymayin’s 10th Birthday Celebration and opening of the Arts Trail Extension Designs in our Lambert Gallery. To learn more about Rachelle McLean’s upcoming exhibition, just keep reading—and scroll down further to have a look at the interview we conducted with her, revealing more about her influences and creative process.
Living in Katherine, I am blessed to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. From the rich reds, browns and oranges in the rock escarpments of the Gorge, to the lush greens of the tropical growth and reflections in the water.
I am concerned with mark-making, to capture the feeling of a surface, which may contrast with the surrounding textures. I use a variety to tools to scrape and work with the paint to build up a textured surface, which is often in contrast with the smoothness of water and reflections. At different times of the day, the quality of light changes the colours of the landscape, which creates a challenge, to represent the differing colours in the shadows and in full sun.
The Australian outback has a rugged beauty which I attempt to capture with a palette knife. The heat of the Katherine sun works to quickly dry my paint turning it sticky and tacky like bitumen in the hot sun, adding to the raw, textured feeling.
I am influenced by Doug Wright, an Australian painter, with his textural approach and strong use of colour. Also, the Australian Impressionist tradition, specifically Arthur Streeton and Frederick McCubbin, informs a lot of my visual style and artistic intentions.
An Interview with the Artist
Q: You’ve been painting for over 25 years. Tell us about your early development as an artist.
A: I studied painting and drawing at university, completing a BA in Visual Arts at Ballarat. Then I continued with my own art practice—working a lot with coloured inks and oil pastels, and enjoying the vibrant colours. My subject matter was either still life or the female nude, focussing on the play of light over different surfaces.Later on I studied web programming and began teaching Art and Media to secondary students—and I dabbled in digital art making.
Q: And what about your current journey as a painter and mark maker in this post-pandemic world.
A: Through the pandemic people were told to socially distance and isolate—encouraged to dob in neighbours who weren’t following these rules. I feel this has actually increased social disconnection and disharmony. Now is a time when we need to focus on finding calmness and serenity.
“How’s the serenity?” says Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle when he takes his family to their country getaway. This is a time when we all need to find our place of serenity, which is why I love to go and experience the places I paint, but also communicate the peacefulness through my work to the viewer.
Q: Your exhibition at Godinymayin, Colour and Texture of the NT, is filled with very familiar landscapes. The pictures are still and hushed, but also very lush and organic at the same time. Tell us about how they came about.
A: I love colour. Life is too short for beige. My work—and the exhibition at Godinymayin—is a celebration of the beauty of colour around us. When certain colours are juxtaposed, such as the blue-violets found in shadows next to the red oxides and umbers in the rocks, they visually resonate (which is joyful).
The Australian bush is rough with its line and texture. And it’s harsh to experience with the extreme heat. I use a palette knife for the raw lines and edges it makes. As the paint dries in the heat it gets sticky and more viscous, like bitumen on a hot sunny day.
Q: What’s the most interesting or meaningful arts/culture experience you’ve ever had?
A: My lecturer, Doug Wright’s use of colour in his landscapes is my immediate answer. The way he builds layers of colour and texture is inspiring. And then seeing an exhibition of Picasso’s work—his drawing and use of line is masterful.
Q: What is your painting process like? Studio-based, plein air, lots of sketches, fast and furious or slow and deliberate?
A: When on holidays we love 4-wheel driving around the outback. I take photos everywhere we go and when we stop for a while, I enjoy painting en plein air—so I can capture the feeling of the place (which a camera doesn’t do justice). I then work in the studio to complete things. I tend to work quickly to cover the blank canvas, then more slowly. And I usually need time away from a painting, then return to it with fresh eyes. Different light conditions change the colours, so it’s important see the work at different times of the day also.
Q: If you went away from the Northern Territory for a long time and then came back, what are the first three things you would do or visit?
A: First would be the Gorge. It’s so majestic. And I love the Hot Springs for a float and a soak, so that would be next. Then I would go for a 4-wheel drive into remote regions—to get away from people and re-connect with the quietness.