From two different cities, the Beyond the Room group: Catriona Graham, Jane Helmers, Vanessa Rowe and Steve Tomlin met online during covid restrictions.
Despite rarely meeting physically, their bond has evolved through a common focus—the exploration of landscape, both imagined and real. Each artist begins with the idea of landscape, and each jumps off into a very unique and personal way of interpreting the three-dimensional world; a world that they will re-imagine and flatten, creating a new universe (the canvas) that we are then invited to explore. Each has honed their observation of colour and visual sensations of looking.
With varying heritages and differing interests, and using a range of media and techniques, they explore their reactions to and interpretation of their themes and subject matter through the materiality of their medium—ranging from fluid, instinctive watercolour, to hard-edged acrylic, to expressive or more detailed oil work.
Their individual windows on our world may be shaped differently and have varying outlooks, but as they have come to learn about each other, each artist’s view is as real as the next; it is simply a matter of perspective.
Catriona spends a lot of time looking at vistas. She is deeply curious about hidden stories in the landscape. “I want to capture an essence of a place; how I can belong in it; to extract the mystery that draws me in and stops me in my tracks”.
Catriona uses ochres, charcoal collected after a fire and watercolour en-plein-air. Later in oil paint she meanders through her memories, pondering the journeys of rivers and trails and their relationship to past travellers.
In essence, Catriona’s work is about communication—sharing a moment of wonder and humanity: a bridge in time and place.
Jane Helmers uses objects from her immediate landscape to create an imaginary world—an Arcadian fantasy. This a response to the daily unease of living with Covid, climate change and world unrest. However, even Arcadia can’t be perfect, and most works are subtly subverted in some way.
The works are an exploration of landscape and consist of both figurative and abstract elements. The forms can collapse into each other and splinter, sometimes defying representational logic. The plasticity of acrylic paint and saturated colour enforces the unreality of the works.
She wants the viewer to be charmed and soothed by my paintings.
Through landscape, Steve Tomlin’s work explores the themes of strength, stability, constancy, and stillness in unpredictable times and in a landscape defined by disquiet and the challenges of nature.
In recent years his work has focused on his emotional responses to the Australian landscape, and to his home as a migrant. Painting provides a creative process of coming to terms with Australian space, appreciating ‘too much landscape’ and feeling ‘at home’.
Through the materiality of oil paint he translates his responses into a personal landscape of experience and memory, seeking certainty and calm in an uneasy ‘home’.
Vanessa Rowe's enduring fascination with the moon has spanned her lifetime. As a child born in the year when man landed on the moon, she would look up at it and think that anything was possible. Sometimes the moon feels close enough to touch, like when it first rises or when reflected off water. At other times it seems unthinkably beyond our reach.
This body of work draws on the beauty of lunar and seasonal cycles, with Vanessa interested in the continuum of those cycles. Her works are largely based in the Australian landscape, enriched by memories and imagined elements.