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Painted Pools:
a lens into subjectivity

MFA Exhibition 2005

Plimsoll Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


The project is an investigation of visual metaphor: specifically, the metaphorical potential of images of water, from evocations of tranquil river pools to those of open sea. Within this framework the project seeks to reconcile images of the particular with the universal: how specificity of place can possess a universality of meaning and how one’s own personal history can oscillate within this framework.

With imagery that begins in abstraction and moves into representation the project aims to present painted images of water that may induce a reflective or meditative frame of mind in the viewer, one that is akin to a common response to water itself.

It is posited that an artist’s art practice is driven by a search for meaning, and in this instance it has been a rite of passage. Paradoxically, however, this research does not realize solutions to various challenges but is an expression of these challenges. Such a motivation – this search for meaning – is essentially subjective.

Commonly seen to co-exist on the surface of water are reflections of light from above and beyond, and embedded forms below and within the water. This dichotomous simultaneity may, it is suggested, be an allegory of our existence – of love and loss, of life and death.

Water is a metaphor for life. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book, Women Who Run with the Wolves, writes how water as this ‘creative force flows over the terrain of our psyches looking for the natural hollows, the arroyos, the channels that exist in us. We become its tributaries, its basins; we are its pools…’ The body and the painted object are virtual pools. Thus, it is an aim of the research that the painted images may serve as more than representations of water per se, but that they may also evoke notions of memory, experience and consciousness.

Relevant artists are Caspar David Fredrich, Edvard Monk, Mark Rothko, Peter Booth, Pat Steir, Jennifer Bartlett and the late images of water by impressionist Claude Monet have been important references. The project has been further shaped by research into other disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, philosophy, theology and science, in particular quantum physics. The main art-theoretical context for this project is romanticism, as both an historical movement and as a persistent contemporary orientation.