Elms Gallery, Surry Hills

Wednesday 21st to Saturday 31st August 2019

Curated and presented by Amber Creswell Bell

For artist and farmer Wendy McDonald, her creative life would struggle to exist away from the property, near the Murray River in Southwest NSW, which she shares with her husband and their two children. The mixed farm on Thule Lagoon feeds inspiration for Wendy’s painting and printmaking by providing a true sense of how the landscape works.

She admits she couldn’t be an artist without being a farmer and vice versa – that one could not function without the other. Her work draws from the ecology of the local environment, the ebb and flow of the creeks and rivers and the dramatic changes of the seasons. She is honoured to tell the story of the ephemeral floodplain and the joys of belonging to a small community, through her art.

Wendy’s work has been shown in galleries across Regional NSW and Victoria, and in Sydney and Melbourne, with pieces in private and public collections around the world. Her works have featured in both Home Beautiful and Australian Country Style Magazine. She was honoured to be included in the 2018 Thames & Hudson publication “A Painted Landscape” by Amber Creswell Bell.

Wendy has been a finalist in numerous awards including The NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize (2016, 2017 & 2018), the Paddington Art Prize, The Calleen Art Prize and The Swan Hill Print & Drawing Acquisitive Prize.

The body of work for “Transitions” was commenced in March 2019. March was a gentler month following a long, difficult, dry summer. Autumn here in the river country is often dry, but there is always a sense of anticipation, as the transition to shorter days with longer shadows instills a sense of the break in the weather that may be to come.

Studies of Thule Lagoon and Pollack Swamp, both significant riverine habitats connected to the Koondrook Perricoota Forest, were undertaken. I was honoured to have artists Pam U’Ren French and Elisabeth Cummings accompany me on my field trips. Introducing your landscape to other artists always leads to heightened personal perspectives and new ways of seeing. Environmental consultant, Dan Hutton, guided us through his important archaeological and ecological fieldwork in these remnant forests, the traditional home of the Barapa Barapa people.

Beautiful rain then fell here during May, providing respite from what for us, was one of the driest years on record. The later works for Transitions reflect the emotion of this time. Transparent, fluid layers aim to capture the sense of liquidity and the water puddled on the parched earth. The ancient Redgums ran with sap and tannins creating a myriad of pinks, tans and gold. The earth was soft and quiet, waiting for green to emerge. The night sky had a renewed clarity as it was washed clean of dust.

Living on this ancient floodplain and grappling with ecological and political change, has instilled an additional sense of transition into our daily being … an uncertain one. Philosopher Thomas Berry termed our time the “ecozoic age” … a time of human influence over environment that is unprecedented. As inhabitants of the most arid continent on earth, a collective, informed and intelligent approach to water and land management is imperative. We need to truly understand and acknowledge this landscape’s ancient past and the reality of the present so we can transition to a positive future.

These works are a very personal homage to our beautiful, unique Riverine habitats and the people who care for them. In these confronting times I take so much heart from the dedicated folk who put “the noise” aside and simply persist with good works for positive ecological and cultural outcomes.

Please enjoy.

Wendy McDonald, 2019

Please click on images below to view in full.

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TRANSITIONS | Wendy McDonald
Curated & presented by Amber Creswell Bell
@ Elms Gallery
Level 1, 393 Crown Street  Surry Hills NSW 2010
Exhibition runs: 21 – 31 August 2019
Opening reception: Wednesday 21st August, 6-8pm.
Gallery hours: Wed to Sat, 10 – 5, Sun 11– 4 (or by appointment)
Contact: amber@ambercreswell.com/ 0414 747 761