Our minds, through thoughts and pictured images (imagination), may go in many directions when the word ‘creation’ is used. Perhaps for some the first direction is to the biblical stories of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. I recall the work of two Australian artists who have done a series of the seven days of creation, Leonard French and the north Queensland indigenous artist, Jasmine Corowa, whose work we had in the first Visionaries exhibition in New Farm, 1999. For others it may lead to a concentrated viewing of the diverse natural world which surrounds us, the sky, the land, the sea, all plant life such as trees and flowers, then the sea creatures, birds, animals and human beings. We are part of and surrounded by God’s creation.
Here we have the current Visionaries’ exhibition in which artists have approached the theme in diverse ways, some with a strongly celebratory feeling, others with the awareness of our human responsibility for having a caring approach to how we relate to and use different aspects of the natural world. The problems caused by human irresponsibility are in the minds of many people. We find reference to the problems cause by bush fires in works by both Juana Bernardo and Dianne Minnaar.
In Christian history a person remembered for his love and care for all creatures is St. Francis of Assisi. No doubt St. Clare also had a similar approach. Two artists in this exhibition have highlighted this, Dianne Minnaar with her icon of St. Francis and Geraldine Wheeler in some of her series of gouache stencil paintings responding to St. Francis’ poem, originally written in his Umbrian dialect, sometimes called in English translation The Canticle of the Creatures.
Several of the works are celebratory of the many beauties of creation, how they are enjoyed and the symbolism given to them. Jennii Gould’s book for children tells of Popcorn enjoying the beach while her paintings also depict a child’s reaction. There is a little children’s corner in the exhibition with other work also by Izzy/Jeni Nix and Sharon Roberts. The video with photographs of the birds on Heron Island by Adele and Frank Dingle celebrates their beauty on land and in flight, but may also call to mind that the world has many threatened species. Adele’s paintings point us also to symbolic meanings which we find and place upon the visible world. Juana reflects upon this as found in Japanese and Chinese culture and Dianne’s icons also make strong use of symbolism.
Several artists are celebrating the beauty of flora while others, particularly those who delight in bush walking, have painted works which depict diverse aspects of the countryside and forests. Iain Renton is one whose work expresses his joy in the bush and all its meaning for him. Joy Harris celebrates the landscape also and Sharon Roberts celebrates the Carnarvon National Park. Several of the works are a celebration of the Australian landscape, both its breadth and minute detail. Tricia Reust reflects on very careful observation of the land and its meaning using different media and styles. The detail in Marion McConaghy’s work is highly symbolic as she reflects upon God’s love for all creation, using the Greek word ‘agape’ but then also using other Greek words, all of which are translated into ‘love’ in English, ‘philia’ which is friendship love and ‘eros’ which is sexual/romantic love.
Artists whose celebration is particularly the beauty of flowers are those in the Touchstones group from Kenmore Uniting Church, a group who meet weekly for meditation and painting. For several of the artists, their work is a celebration of the delight they find in colour and light, the relationships of different colours in the world and the palette. This is very much an emphasis in works by Juana Bernardo, Marcelien Hunt and Dona Spencer as indicated in titles given to some of their paintings.
There are the paintings which depict a person expressing praise of God, as do Geraldine Wheeler’s works inspired by the St. Francis poem, and other work is a personal expression of prayer for the artists. This is always the case with the icon which is written prayerfully and it is so with a range of other work which emerges from prayer, with brush strokes beings marks of prayer for an artist. The works of Laura Phillips refer to prayer, personal prayer and the prayer for others and Tanya van Riejsen visualises prayer, including the praise of colourful flowers. A simple expression of feeling and emotion is strong in the naive works of Izzy/Jeni Nix and many of the other works in this show.
Again artists of Visionaries thank the staff of ACU for this opportunity to exhibit and celebrate.
Geraldine Wheeler, co-ordinator of Visionaries.