Media release: The Welcome
New works by Frances Feasey highlight the artist's affinity with some of the state's most rugged and remote places.
Nowendoc and Walgett are places that are neither familiar nor welcoming to most of us. Inhabited mainly by Aboriginal locals and die-hard country folk, these rugged, remote and often inaccessible outback places seem renowned for all the wrong reasons.
Wanted-man Malcolm Naden had holed-up for many months in the dense and tangled bush at Nowendoc prior to his capture last year. The tiny village of Nowendoc, west of Gloucester in the upper Hunter, is reached via Thunderbolt Way. Clearly Malcolm - as locals semi-affectionately refer to him - was not the first bushranger drawn to this deep forested location.
Walgett, in the state's north west, was one of the infamous hotspots visited by Charles Perkins' Freedom Riders in 1965. Segregation and racial discrimination were exposed, and media attention was drawn when locals ran the students' bus off the road into a ditch. Today Walgett is an Aboriginal town striving for socio-economic improvement. But wire-mesh covered shopfronts may still signal grey nomads to keep on driving.
Life can be harsh out here, due to isolation and the environmental challenges of flood and fire, yet for Feasey, "Nowendoc and Walgett are two places that I have found calm, peace and welcome." A country up-bringing may explain why she so readily embraces remote places: "I grew up in the bush, in a place called Bendemeer where only 150 people lived - it was so remote that they still had the old values and ways of doing things - I loved it! When I read Patrick White's book Tree of Man that really reminded me of my childhood."
Feasey's new show features two of her favoured approaches: luminous realism and abstraction. If luminous use of colour allows her to depict what she describes as 'visual treasures' discovered in changing light on landscape, it is the artist's larger abstracted works - a tangle of densely layered depths and views - that most fully evoke her experience of being in the bush:
"I find the colours and tangled depths of the NSW bush exciting. It's like an adventure for the eyes, watching the changing light. In my work I use heightened colours to accentuate my observations, drawing out the best bits of nature."
Feasey's parents, immigrants of German and British extraction, have made Nowendoc their home. So arriving there is always a welcoming experience for the artist. It's a place for unwinding and un-doing the stresses of life and work in the city. There's no internet, no mobile phone coverage and a real sense of stepping back in time, where home-baking and making-do are order of the day.
And this year, while on a trip to outback NSW, Feasey felt honoured to receive a warm welcome to country from Walgett's Gamilaraay elders, who invited her to depict their special places. This was a money-can't-buy experience for the artist, who was invited to accompany elders onto reserve land outside of town and encouraged to re-visit local riverside spots at dawn and dusk. Here she found ample inspiration for her work.
Feasey's work was hung in the Dobell drawing prize in 2012. This is her 5th solo show.
The Welcome opens at Chrissie Cotter Gallery Wednesday 1 May 2013.
Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Pidcock Street, Camperdown NSW