Opening Conversation

In 1888 Paul Gauguin wrote ‘A word of advice: don’t copy nature too closely. Art is an abstraction. Develop it from nature by dreaming in front of it, and pay more attention to the process than the result…”

With an increasing interest in and reliance upon the sensory in art, the abstract element has become increasingly popular. Five Australian artists whose work emerges from this field, showcase works that explore contemporary abstraction in art; a focus on the inner nature of art – new rhythms, new forms and breathtaking colour.

The artists: Alexandra Plim, Clare Purser, Julie Nicholson, Kay Wood, Lynne Flemons

I think we all have a special place for that ‘wow factor’ piece of art that just stops you in your tracks! At times, we may sense a notion of spiritual connection, an expanding concept of art, a focus on the inner nature of art – new rhythms, new forms, the breathtaking colour. There is a chemistry between the painting and you – not always understood – sometimes superficial and ephemeral, sometimes just the line and colour with no representative relationship at all. It’s a feeling – a connection, and a spontaneous reaction. We feel and sense it ….

Abstract art is open to interpretation, and that is one of the wonderful things about it. Abstract art gives you the freedom to mull over the artwork and assign your own meaning to the piece. This intensely personal process enriches a viewer’s experience of an artwork. There is an urgency of pure expression and artistic imagination. The abstract element in art has come increasingly to the forefront of contemporary living and the way we grace our interior wall

I have heard many artists write and talk about their paintings in ways that expose their very inner personal thoughts and the feelings that overwhelmed them when creating each abstract painting. Often it was colour and shape that played a major part in the paintings. Colours and shapes became a way of expressing an emotion and/or thought. When they are all brought together within the painting, it becomes a journey of communication between the viewer and the painter.

In art therapy, expressive painting can offer a way of expressing thoughts and emotions which can be difficult to say out loud. “I also came to understanding that art can be a very powerful way of communicating with others… therapy via art – gave me a voice…”

Alexandra Plim

Alexandra is a Sydney based artist working from her studio in Lewisham. Her energetic and intuitive works use colour, texture and bold marks to evoke the drama and movement of a diverse Australian landscape. “I would best describe my work as expressive abstract. I work on mostly large-scale canvas and linen in acrylics, often incorporating other mixed media. I paint intuitively, using bold colour and broad gestural marks. I am addicted to the irreverent process of creating a painting. Much like rehearsing a play or improvising on stage, painting requires me to be in the moment. And it’s a wonderful feeling”.
In addition to being an artist, Alexandra is also a professionally trained actor. “My performance training and experience continues to influence and energise my artistic practise. I am addicted to the irreverent process of creating a painting. Much like rehearsing a play or improvising on stage, painting requires me to be in the moment.” Alexandra studied Theatre and Costume Design, completing a Bachelor of Arts at Charles Sturt University. She went on to complete her acting training as a performer in Sydney, with an Advanced Diploma in Acting.

Clare Purser

In 1996 I completed an Honours degree in Visual Art from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University”. Since that time she has been exhibiting regularly in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Clare pursued a fulltime art practice in 2011 and now lives on Moreton Bay where she works from her home studio.

Clare works predominantly in the medium of oil painting with mixed media on canvas, board and paper, using photos, notes and sketches for inspiration. She lives on Moreton Bay, Brisbane where she works from her home studio. Clare likes painting and drawing plain-air around where she lives on Brisbane’s Bayside. She is interested in creating paintings that are evocative and intuitive and express an emotive reaction to the landscape. “I like to follow the direction the painting takes, taking advantage of the pliable nature of oil paint and the many ways it can be manipulated.” Themes relating to the of the environment have become central to Clare’s work; “The degradation of our coastal environment has been an ongoing concern of my work. My practice is informed by the Bay and islands close to where I live on Moreton Bay near Brisbane.”

Julie Nicholson

Julie Nicholson is an emerging artist living and working in Avalon Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The artist first came to Australia 20 years ago from England, but still thinks about ‘home’. Her figurative work narrates the longing for home, confounded by a separation from family due to the pandemic. ‘I am fascinated and enriched by conversations and human connections.’ Mainly working in acrylics and oil pastels, Nicholson uses thin glazes and mark-making to create multiple textures and depth.

Art has followed Nicholson throughout her life, first studying architectural stained glass in Wales and immersing herself in her new landscape painting nearby ocean views.
Nicholson is now on a motion to push her art practice forwards, seeking the challenge of abstraction. Beginning with sketches from landscapes and life drawings, Nicholson develops the composition of her artworks. the composition is filled with layers; only three-quarters of the original canvas remaining with paint scraped back, revealing narratives beneath. The artist relates this to solving a puzzle, putting the pieces together. A process unfolds of complex layering patterns — chucking paint on a canvas, squashing it together, making texture.

Kay Wood

Kay Wood grew up in country Western Australia. She studied at Sydney College of the Arts and has a BVA (Hons) and an MVA. She also has a BA (Hons) from Deakin University. Prior to her return to Perth in 2005 Kay had had fourteen solo shows and participated in numerous group exhibitions.

Kay Wood’s recent works continues her interest in ontology, especially that of art objects. Paintings are combined in arrangements that also include a variety of readymade and handcrafted things. There are evident imperfections, irregularities, flawed techniques and mundane materials sitting askew. Kay continues her dichotomous exploration of abstraction and representation. A gestural and expressive rawness permeates both her varied abstract motifs and the deliberately minimalised depictions of the figurative forms which sit companionably alongside them. “The key thing for me is to actually start moving paint around, with or without a specific intention or idea. For me colour is content and colour is always floating around in the back of my mind – maybe it was something I saw that day, something in the street or floating past on Instagram, or some information about another artist’s use of colour – whatever, it gets in my head and insists upon being expressed and that is the jump start to new work”.

Lynne Flemons

Lynne Flemons is a Canberra based artist whose work embodies a sense of play as she exposes interactions between colour, pattern and movement in the landscape. Her paintings depict colourful evocations of the landscapes that she is most familiar with, as uniquely perceived by the artist. Her whimsical approach to colour and movement are joyful insights into the artist’s mind. Lynne received a Master of Philosophy (Arts & Social Sciences), from Australian National University, Canberra in 2015, Bachelor of Teaching, University of Western Sydney 2001, and in 1994, Bachelor of Arts (Visual), Australian National University, Canberra. She has exhibited regularly for over 20 years, has been nominated for numerous awards and artists residencies, and has work held is corporate and private collections in Australia and Europe. She has exhibited consistently for the last 2 decades.

“It is through walking that I often find inspiration for my work, a reconnaissance of sorts; preliminary observations anchor a need to represent something of the places I traverse whether though en plein air painting, drawing on site or studio work. Watercolour, watercolour pencils and acrylics are my favoured mediums due to their versatility. I often work in watercolour when walking and drawing in the field. I return to a site with acrylics and my easel when working en plein air where the terrain permits. Some of the studio work I make is based on memories of walks I have taken. Other work is about the immersion and the sensations of walking in a particular place”.