My latest hunt for great things to show you led me to Not the Archies. That led me to Margaret McLoughlin. Then last week to Jenny Reddin. Both artists have work in Not the Archies and both artists will participate in the Yarra Valley Open Studio’s Program, being held again in September of this year throughout the gorgeous Yarra Valley.
Not the Archies is the best community arts project. People of all ages have been invited to paint portraits of locals. (I’m so happy to see portraits created by children!) These works will be displayed in shop windows and venues around the Yarra Valley during the month of July, while The Archibald is on display at TWMA. The winners will be announced in mid July. I’ll be at the awards night to bring you all the results first hand.
In Jenny’s portrait of Lisa Giffard for Not the Archies, she used brushes to apply the paint. This is a departure from the work included here. Pouring is her preferred method of applying paint to canvas. The technique excites me beyond measure. By dissolving paint in massive amounts of medium, allowing the pigment to drop out, sometimes interrupting the flow of paint, she is able to achieve the unique works you see here.
Researching this blog I found a wonderful description of her work from Jenny herself. She’s responding to a question from Lindy Burns during an interview on ABC Radio, just before the inaugural Yarra Valley Open Studio’s Program in 2009. (It’s great to see that Jenny has such a lively sense of humor and doesn’t take herself too seriously.)
“I do a lot of pouring on and dribbling turps and damaging and scraping back. I’ve even at times got so frustrated with a canvas that I’ve thrown it onto the gravel driveway and jumped on it…which has improved it out of sight.” Lindy Burns ABC Radio 10th September 2009. (Incidentally Lindy Burns is the ambassor of the Yarra Valley Open Studio’s Program.) To hear the whole interview, click on this link.
In talking to Jenny I find that she is unafraid to experiment with different mixes and quantities of medium and different ways to disperse paint. Her father is a chemist so I wonder if a fascination with the science of paint is in her blood. This combination of science and art opens the way to exploring new ground in the techniques of pouring.
I always say this, and it’s no less true here. These photos don’t do her work justice. Many of them are on a large scale. I found the vibrant paint colours and the textures mesmerising. Jenny has a stable that has been converted into a gallery for her work, so you can see it well displayed and certainly get the enormity of the impact of each work. Her studio and gallery are a must see on a Yarra Valley Open Studio itinerary.
From the stable we wandered around the garden, always aware of the Yarra Valley views and of course the still visible effects of the Black Saturday fires. While wandering, Jenny gave me an impromptu workshop on the ephemeral artist Andy Goldsworthy, winding long leaves around dried flower stalks and gathering leaves of a variety of colours together in interesting ways. For a breathtaking youtube beautifully demonstrating the ephemeral nature of Andy Goldsworthy’s work, check out this link.
She says that he sees the beauty in things that might otherwise be thrown in the compost bin…textures and colours that have a special quality. Apparently, he sees more beauty in these objects, created by nature and it’s cycles, than in anything else on earth. I couldn’t help thinking about Jenny’s work in relation to that. Like Andy Goldsworthy, she has developed an exquisite ability to ‘look and truly see’. She creates beautiful, unpredictable work with colour mixes and textures that natural forces dictate, through the pouring of paint. I can’t wait to see where her experimentation takes her next.
Jenny comments that in the Yarra Valley she is blessed with a “beautiful community”. People are drawn to live out there as a result of its natural beauty, its fresh air and its spaciousness. It’s perfect for artists. Others like Jenny have moved out there to live after a high voltage career in the city. Jenny worked in an executive role in Reddin Consulting Group for many years (incidentally, she remembers sitting in meetings using the blutak to sculpt tiny figures…the writing was on the wall way back then). In the Yarra Valley, there are thousands of ‘expats’ with a similar story. In addition to their intellectual power, these expats bring a rich diversity of artistic and professional skills to the area. When I asked if she would ever move back to Melbourne or if she misses her previous work I get an unequivocal no. We both look out to her stunning view and I know why. Jenny feels like she’s come home to the Yarra Valley but at the same time has come home to herself.
The Yarra Valley Open Studios Program is in its third year. It has rocketed into prominence in the area. With artists like Jenny Reddin on board it’s not hard to see why! Check out their website for the 2011 dates for your diary.
All paintings and details of paintings in this post are © Jenny Reddin.