Nerina Lascelles exhibition “Seizui- Essence” opened at Montsalvat at the beginning of this month. In excess of one hundred people enjoyed Montsalvat’s hospitality for the opening. Perfect venue aside, the night was appropriately all about Nerina’s latest body of work, based on Haiku poems. She sums it up beautifully,
“Each of the fourteen works in this exhibition have been inspired after the reading and contemplation of a series of Haiku poems by the Japanese masters. For each poem chosen I have endeavoured to extract the ‘essence’ and bring the inherent imagery to life through a visual interpretation.”
If like me, you need to brush up on the basics of Haiku poetry, here’s a little description courtesy of the www.
“The haiku format is a form of poetic expression based on Zen Buddhism. This was developed from ancient Chinese models in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Haiku are normally restricted to three lines with a maximum number of seventeen syllables in a 5-7-9 syllabic pattern. There are no contrived rhymes, no metrical shackles and no title. Japanese artists, under the influence of Zen philosophy, have tended to use as few words as possible to express their feelings, and the resultant precise focus (being closer to the complete silence of cosmic consciousness) intensifies insight into the heart of experience.” From the Electric Scotland website.
Like the poems, the paintings are elegant distillations of a central theme containing elements of symbol, technique and composition that reflect the theme.
Clouds veil the Moon
Now and again,
Giving rest to its beholders
Matsuo Basho (1644-94)
flying toward the darkness,
Matsuo Basho (1644-94)
Lying down on my back,
The spring sunshine
Filled my mouth.
Seibi Natsume (1749-1816)
The magnolia blossoms
Swinging and swaying
In the great sky.
Photograph by Kerry Cross©
Colleague and friend, Shane Pugh opened the exhibition with words that acknowledged Nerina’s talent and her contribution to the Dunmoochin community.
“As a director of, and on behalf of the Dunmoochin Foundation, where Nerina is currently an artist in residence, I commend her dedication to her arts practice, her participation and co-ordination of the Open Studios Program and her community arts participation. It is artists like Nerina who fulfill the Foundation’s purpose…Nerina’s personality and approach to her art is absolutely genuine. Her work comes thru her passion, imagination and quest of life…I find her work very accessible, I enioy where the images take me, the poetry adds another dimension to my visual journey.”
While there have been several Isiiad posts with Nerina at their centre, this time I’ve gone the full bottle with an interview and photo shoot at her studio to accompany the exhibition opening information. Last week I followed a visit to Yarra Valley artist, Ember Fairbairn, with a visit to Nerina at her home and studio at Dunmoochin. As I mentioned in Ember’s blog, the two women are colleagues and good friends who have exhibited together on a number of occasions. Both artists reference eastern philosophies in their work. So it seemed like synchronicity of sorts, that I happened, quite by accident, to see them both on the same day.
Nerina has lived in her dear little cottage at Dunmoochin for over a year now. In Nerina’s own words, her residency at Dunmoochin has been “the best thing I’ve ever done!” She has valued the constant presence of other artists (five or six artists live at Dunmoochin at any one time) whose inspiration and support have fed her creative soul daily. In addition, she feels a particular affinity with the bush at Dunmoochin. It has a special quality that was not lost on its original owner Clifton Pugh and is still being carefully preserved through the Dunmoochin Foundation. Nerina enjoys nothing more than sitting on the ridge at Dunmoochin and watching the sun go down…a ritual she shares with other residents on a regular basis.
Within her studio next to the cottage, Nerina created the works for ‘Seizui’. The studio is filled with Japanese kimono fabrics, Japanese papers, wooden stamps and the usual brushes and paint. Work is an intense process for her. In the case of her recent exhibition, she would often go to bed reading the Haiku poems and wake up with a decision on which poem to represent and some ideas for the initial composition. Works are painted and collaged then given a final layer of polished encaustic wax which holds the various elements together. While references to Japanese art and aesthetic abound, several of the works incorporate hints of Nerina’s immediate environment. With these works, Nerina elevates the environment to a sacred place…I won’t be arguing with that!
It takes a long time to distill the essence of things. The genesis of that essence is often hard to locate….Perhaps in the case of the essence of Nerina’s work, these bottles provide the clue. They go with her everywhere, taking pride of place in her studio. They belonged to her grandfather, who was an artist…
Old turpentine treasure,
joined with brush and paint.
All sacred beauty.
Jeannette Davison (2011)
Nerina’s exhibition “Seizui- Essence” is currently showing in Montsalvat’s Long Gallery until October 2nd. You have a unique opportunity to meet the artist between 1pm-3pm on September 17th and 24th.
All work in this post is Nerina Lascelles©