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12 Art Appraising Task Fabian Petroni

Eyeline
Magazine
Sense of
Place
Fabian Petroni punctiliously analyses the work of Englishman,
Bernard Ollis, and Australians, Margaret Preston and Grace
Cossington Smith, in regards to their portrayal of the concept of
sense of place.

"Every one seeks a sense of place, whether it is his or her own


(A Sense of Place, 2017) (Peterson, N., back yard or country. Place reinforces one's sense of self, one's
2015) true identity." Susan Loeb

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12 Art Appraising Task Fabian Petroni

Making Modernism is an exhibition at the suggests that Preston created the artwork
Queensland Gallery of Modern Art looking out a window, as the foreground is
exploring the intersection of three comprised of fencing which appears to
significant modernist painters who each signify domestic boundaries. Thusly she has
used colour and abstraction, used her immediate surroundings as the
individualistically, to create a distinct subject of the artwork from which she has
artistic style. The artists have each worked created a distinct interpretation of place.
within the emerging transcultural discourse Prestons work reflects a distinct modernist
of Modernism, and share a common vision of the culture and identity, with
interest in basing works on the immediate landscape and a sense of place
built and natural world around them. The distinguishably a substantial source of
work of Margaret Preston and Grace inspiration. (Bridge from North Shore, 2017)
Cossington Smith will be critically analysed, (Margaret Preston Australian printmaker, 2005)
in relation to its portrayal of the concept of
sense of place. (Modernism - O'Keefe,
Cossington Smith, Preston, 2017) (Margaret
Preston Australian printmaker, 2005)

Margaret Preston is renowned for the relief,


woodcut prints and paintings she produced
across the breadth of her career. Preston
has articulated the primordial character of
her local environment, through her works,
in pursuit of an aesthetic that is
distinctively Australian. A fine example of
her bold and decorative artistic style is
Bridge from North Shore, a 1932 woodcut,
hand-coloured print. Like the many floral
still-lifes Preston produced during this
period, many details and elements of the
scene have been simplified the linear
textures of tiled roofs, bricks, wire fencing,
shrubbery, building textures and the
dominant forms of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from North Shore, 1932, woodcut hand-coloured on paper
Bridge, have been reduced creating a 19.0 x 23.2 cm blockmark; 22.7 x 31.9 cm sheet
dense composition of decorative
patterning. The aging of the paper has
created a tan undertone which provides a
warm tone to the painting. This tan tone
gives the artwork a monochromatic colour
scheme with the highlights of the burnt
orange tiled roofs providing a contrast of
colour and light. The artwork aligns with
the design principle of proportion exhibiting
its maintenance of certain realistic
elements. The symmetry of the built
environment elements the structures on
either side of, and the wooden and wire
fencing forming an arrow shape, directing
the viewers line of sight towards the
dominant form of the Sydney Harbour
Bridge. The framing of the artwork

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12 Art Appraising Task Fabian Petroni

Grace Cossington Smith was an Australian


modernist painter and influential in
introducing the Post-impressionism
movement within Australia. Her 1964 oil
painting on composition board, Interior in
Yellow, is a prime example of her intimate
and glowing artistic style. (Making Modernism,
2016) She had chosen, similarly to the work
of Margaret Preston, to paint her
immediate surroundings views from her
semi-rural, highland suburb home,
Cossington, in Turramurra. At this point in
her life, Cossington Smith transitioned from
painting more public domains to
concentrating on her familys estate. As
most of her immediate family were no
longer in her life, she spent more time
about her house, her easel straying from her
studio to various indoor rooms. The room
pictured in Interior in Yellow, formerly her
parents bedroom, allowed Cossington Smith
to depict a distinguishable interpretation and
perception of sense of place through her
distinct artistic style. Her experimentation
with light, form and colour is most notable Interior in Yellow, 1962-1964, oil on composition board
121.7 h x 90.2 w cm framed (overall) 141.4 h x 110.2 w cm
in her artistic style, having stated with the
utmost simplicity that she had always idiosyncratic concept of space
wantedto express form in colour colour compositiona perspective beyond the
within colour, vibrant with light. (Thomas, D, boundaries of the framethe subject [of the
2002) Having transcribed a textual piece artwork, has the ability to]expand inwardly
about the psychic and philosophical and outwardlyin the cube, not merely on
messages of colour, she received feedback on the surface. (Thomas, D, 2002) This concept of
her art by writer, artist and emissary of space composition was in reference to the
modernism, Ethel Anderson, who recognised doors seen through reflective doors, the
her unique brush stroke[and] grasp of wardrobe mirror, which can be perceived as a
colour. (Thomas, D, 2002) This comprehension sunfilled looking glass which has memorised
of these crucial elements of design allowed visions of her family and outdoor activity. The
Cossington Smith to amalgamate colour, form rumpled bed cloths are stimuli, devices that
and light to produce square touches of paint, attempt to connect the viewer to a surge of
of gradient colour, which produced vibrations emotional and visual energy. Embraced by its
that expressed a certain refulgence of indirect radiant colours and forms, across this
sunlight. These squares of paint portray a contemplative place of solitary sleep, dreams,
sense of balance in her work, a consistent and perhaps death, the creases, folds and
pattern that is aesthetically appealing. For touches of colour draw the viewer deep into
the artist, the yellow wallswere a very the the artists alternate viewing glass of the
exciting thing to do[to] express an interior built and natural world, conveying past
with light[whilst] the sunlight did not come memories as wrinkle-lines convey age and
in in a definite waythe whole room seemed time. These are memories of her deceased
to be full of light. (Thomas, D, 2002) In parents and long departed siblings in her
addition to mentioning her technique, Ethel childhood home which has caused the
Anderson recognised Cossington Smiths residence to resonate with her, becoming a

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12 Art Appraising Task Fabian Petroni

location which maintains a distinct sense of usual whimsical style, Ollis has produced
place for the artist. These aspects can be works of lush, kaleidoscopic renditions of
classified as elements that are not identifiable mundane scenes all over the world. One
unless the artists history is known - referred rendition displayed in this exhibition is
to by Cossington Smith as expressing things Avenue De La Bourdonnais Paris, an oil pastel
unseen the golden thread running through and mixed media on cotton rag paper
time, the implied evocation of memories and artwork. Ollis work eludes easy
emotions. (Thomas, D, 2002) categorisation, however this particular
artwork is an amalgam of colour (unrealistic
colours, but emotionally evocative colours
Observations is an exhibition at the Mitchell which convey the feelings experienced as a
Fine Art Gallery in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, response to the geographic location) and
that follows the artistic travels of Australian playful forms, if you will, a child-like,
artist, Bernard Ollis. The exhibition is alternate to realism- surrealistic. The
irrational juxtaposition of sublimely designed
19th and 20th century Parisian architecture and
the curved forms of the idyllic apartments,
which appear to waver and tremble, he has
created, suggests that his depiction of the
built and natural world is a skewed reality.
Having adopted skills from creating theatre
sets in London, he has been able to paint with
an understanding of elements entering and
exiting the constructs of his painting, a sense
of those elements beyond the edges of his
framing. Ollis has described, lucidly, how
Paris is his creative comfort and spiritual
home. This geographic location was the place
he initially began using the oil pastels he
now wields so expertly. He referred to it as
the first period in[his] life where[he] was
actually making art because thats what[he]
wanted to do. (McDonald, J., 2006) Thusly, a
sense of place would be a characteristic of
Paris for Ollis as it was there where he
experienced a substantial growth in his
development as an artist- in turn, producing a
Avenue De La Bondonnais Paris, 2015, oil pastel and mixed rendition of the Parisian cityscape represents
media on cotton rag paper - 76 x 57 cm a distinct sense of place. (Bernard Ollis: Paris
Revisited, 2011)
reminiscent of the international destinations
to which he has travelled and the emotions
evoked as a response to the respective
environments. Ollis explains that, some of The vocabulary of abstraction and colour is
these locations are revisits to places with fond a common element of the Preston,
or nostalgic memories. Some entirely new Cossington Smith, and Ollis artistic
experiences. As an artist, stepping out of your odysseys- their professional successes and
comfort zone and familiarity is an important artistic developments. Of equal significance
visual stimulus. Outsiders often react with is their ability to express a distinct sense of
fresh eyes. (Bernard Ollis Observations, 2015) place, in particularly, for Preston and
His works are regarded as whimsical and Cossington Smith, the familiar colours
exuding a sense of humour and gaiety; in this associated with their natural surroundings,

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12 Art Appraising Task Fabian Petroni

and for Ollis, the vivid colour palettes he he travelled as this notion of sense of place
imagines. The artists during their respective that characterised certain locations. While
careers, painted with conviction, creating Cossington Smith and Preston developed
an identifiable and distinct artistic style, distinctly individualised styles, inspired by
and for Cossington Smith and Preston, an this sense of place concept, their works
artistic style separate from the artistic maintained conceptual underpinnings,
movement of European Modernism at the shared themes and approaches to
time, one that maintained an evocation of portraying modern life which underscored
primordial source. For Ollis, his journey in the broader story of modernisms global
developing his distinct artistic style was one evolution. (Making Modernism - O'Keefe,
of a personal nature and was centred Cossington Smith, Preston, 2017) (McDonald, J.,
around the geographic locations to which 2006)

Bibliography

A Sense of Place. (2017). Heritage Perth. Retrieved 18 July 2017, from http://heritageperth.com.au/your-
heritage/a-sense-of-place/

Bernard Ollis - Observations. (2015). Mitchell Fine Art Gallery. Retrieved 20 July 2017, from
https://www.mitchellfineartgallery.com/exhibitions/previous/bernard-ollis2017

Bernard Ollis: Paris Revisited. (2011). NG Art Gallery. Retrieved 20 July 2017, from
http://www.ngart.com.au/exhibition_gallery_59_BernardOllis.html

Bridge from North Shore. (2017). QAGOMA. Retrieved 19 July 2017, from
http://blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/bridge-from-north-shore/

Making Modernism. (2016). Museum of Modern Art - Head. Retrieved 20 July 2017, from
https://www.heide.com.au/sites/default/files/making%20modernism%20ed%20kit.pdf

Making Modernism - O'Keefe, Cossington Smith, Preston. (2017). QAGOMA. Retrieved 20 July 2017, from
http://blog.qagoma.qld.gov.au/making-modernism/

Margaret Preston Australian printmaker. (2005). National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 20 July 2017, from
https://nga.gov.au/preston/

McDonald, J. (2006). Bernard Ollis. Bernard Ollis. Retrieved 20 July 2017, from
http://www.bernardollis.com/profile.html

Peterson, N. (2015). The Changing Primal Landscape. Deeproot. Retrieved 21 July 2017, from
http://www.deeproot.com/blog/blog-entries/the-changing-primal-landscape

Thomas, D. (2002). Grace Cossington Smith. National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 19 July 2017, from
https://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=45746

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