29 May – 10 August, 2010
Wynne and Blake Prize Winning Artist
Transcending Time and Place
You are invited to a major exhibition of new and ongoing works on canvas and paper from one of Australia’s important and widely collected artists.
Exhibition Opening Saturday 29 May, 2010 at 3.00pm in The Octagon Artspace. by Robert Wilson, Editor Capital Magazine.
David Voigt was born in Sydney in 1944 and studied at the National Art School in Sydney from 1964 to 1968. In 1968 he won the English Speaking Union Travelling Scholarship and the Power Bequest Studio, Cite International in 1969. Between 1969 and 1972 he lived and exhibited in France and The Netherlands with extensive travels throughout Europe returning to live and work in Australia in late 1973.
Among his many awards are the Blake Prize in 1976 for his painting Blue Requiem, the Blake Prize in 1981 forMeditation and the Wynne Prize for Australian landscape in 1981 for Hills of Ravensdale.
He is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and State Galleries of Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania as well as Regional Galleries in Bathurst, Newcastle, Sale, Townsville, Wollongong, and Gosford.
Works from the late 1960s and early 70s are in collections in France, Italy, Holland, Sweden and Australia. Works from the mid 1970s to 2000 are widely distributed in collections throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong, Europe, the UK and USA , and the Utrecht Collection of Contemporary Art, The Netherlands.
Corporate collection holdings include Australian Associated Press, Ansett Airlines, BHP Billiton, Banque Nationale de Paris, Bank of Montreal, Brambles, Coles-Myer, Carlton United Breweries, CIG Australia, Darrell Lea, Lend Lease Corporation, Merrill Lynch, National Australia Bank, Qantas Airways, State Authority Superannuation Board, Telstra, etc.
His first solo exhibition of etchings, serigraphs and drawings was held in Canberra in 1968 and then an exhibition of paintings, etchings and works on paper at the Blaxland Gallery, Sydney in 1969. His first International solo exhibition was in Paris at Gallery de Haut Pave in 1970. Since 1968 David Voigt has had in excess of 120 solo exhibitions.
Transcending Time and Place is David Voigt’s fourth solo exhibition at Bungendore Wood Works Gallery.
In 1976 David Voigt settled on a pristine property in the picturesque Yarramalong Valley in the NSW Central Coast hinterland. And he’s been there ever since, developing both the property and his extreme sense of place based on the natural world all around him.
Just outside his two working studios, one for his watercolour and mixed media works on paper, and another for the canvas works, he can experience a myriad of nature. Within this secluded misty temperate rainforest, stunning rock escarpments cascade water into secret streams flowing to mysterious moss-covered gullies then river flats where he sometimes grazes cattle on rich grasslands.
Voigt prefers to experience the landscape here at Yarramalong and in many other locations from the eastern seaboard coastal areas of NSW to the high plains of the Australian Alps. He collects physical, emotional and highly interpretive mind memos from his experiences, and then re-constructs his interpretations of nature’s elements, from memory, in the studio.
His visions are of recognisable places, or rather of individual parts of those places. Like light reflecting off organic elements such as rocks, trees, grasslands and bird life, and other invisible entities like the sounds of water falling, the swirling winds and its effects on clouds, skies, vegetation and water surfaces. He also collects the silences of place.
His consequent imagery on canvas and paper, while in the main being based in particular land or seascape locations, are rarely of specific places, more a mixture of the place, time, emotion, weather and individual elements of many visited places.
He works in multiple directions, with superb mystical landscapes, flowing watercolours laced with mixed media and yet another, structured around strongly defined and quite severe geometry.
Voigt doesn’t draw lines between the directions he works in. His mixed media works on paper; pictorial landscapes and severe geometric abstractions bounce off each other with elements placed into multiple contexts across the spectrum of his work.
What may seemingly be completely different styles emanate from one mind, and one mindset. His work is all about having the ability to control all the elements at his disposal across his chosen mediums and styles. It’s the play of light on the elements, powerfully implanted in his mind on his forays into the landscape, that consequently informs his imagery.
Bright colours are now dominant unlike his early works that were much more subdued in colour, for example his 1976 Blake Prize winning painting, Blue Requiem, is an essay in subtle blues with an added element of stainless steel and an almost negative space that has been interpreted by many as an abstract representation of Jesus on the cross. He says this was in no way intentional.
This exhibition is about the mystery and romance of the ethereal landscape Voigt so much admires.
Working in either watercolour or acrylic requires different techniques that are more applicable to the medium and the surface material. However the resultant effects are usually common.
Considerable time is spent sitting or standing in front of a blank sheet of paper or stretched canvas, contemplating from where in his mind’s eye the composition of the next scenario will come from. Perhaps from a memory or a pre-conceived vision of the coast, the rainforest, the grasslands, or the mountain valleys and escarpments.
On a watercolour work this will result in a brief sketch of the main compositional elements. He reflects on the perceived difficult nature of working in watercolours but rejects the traditional working method that he feels often leads most results to be somewhat stiff and contrived. He tries to get away from that and has evolved an intuitive and very personal method of working.
Beginning with broad brushed washes and a spontaneous approach he lays down colour and tonal washes to form the major elements that will drive the composition, and leaves areas of white paper, large and small, to retain a luminous quality ripe for further mixed media development.
This first stage, carried out throughout his career on only one type of paper, is left to dry, then sprayed with water and again allowed to dry under pressure to provide a flattened surface for another day’s detailed mixed media enhancement.
He may, in the meantime, work on areas with some force, pushing water and paint into or out of the surface to obliterate or enhance certain areas. This process is not unlike the birth of the paper as a water and cellular wood mix, fed through the papermaking press where it begins as a thick liquid mixture progressively flattened between heavy calendaring rollers, expunging the liquid until the paper is eventually formed to a desired thickness.
The paper surface will take much of this re-development before it breaks down entirely, a point that this artist stops short of in his quest for a different approach. Then he begins work with mixed media such as pencils, crayons or paint with very fine brushwork, to complete the individually detailed elements that finalise the composition. At all times he is looking to present a sense of mystery, drama and illusion in subtle yet powerful imagery not normally associated with many watercolour paintings.
For the canvas based works he works with acrylics on self stretched canvases placed on a vertical wall. Again, much time is spent contemplating the blank canvas with a mind for the canvas’s shape and dimensions to inform the scenario that eventually comes to mind.
In these works he varies the paint surfaces and they become much more tactile with heavy underpainting to give a three-dimensional look often contrasted with more refined smoother surfaces displaying graded tone and colour progressions.
The under-painting is subjected to multiple layers of over-painting, giving a wide range of degrees of colour depending on the previous base surface texture. Elements like rock outcrops or pieces of tree bark can become extremely tactile in this way.
I write this listening to music, in my case modern jazz with its improvised melodies, staccato solos or soft Latin rhythms. Voigt paints in a similar way but to classical music with its inherent subtleties and high drama. This aids him in presenting variations on the same subject or theme on the canvas.
And his aim is always to have the composition and texture seemingly emit light from the surface of his work, allowing it to take on a life of its own.
Nowhere is this more evident than in his geometric based abstractions of the landscape, where light is the dominant factor and where strong severe straight or curved shapes supply borders to enhance the effects of light as shafts of brilliance or of darkness. Whatever the desired effect, the aim is to create a dynamic composition filled with movement and drama.
The geometric structures may be stripes, arcs, triangles, squares, or whatever, all still representing nature. They have evolved into ever increasing levels of complexity, demanding much pre-preparation of the canvas.
The large-scale geometric based abstractions are fewer and farther between now. The physical demands on this work are seeing to that. Voigt has made this approach to presenting landscape his trademark, a creative process spanning over fifty years.
It’s a technique that has been widely accepted by the artist’s admirers, many of whom possess quite a number of works covering his styles, and believe in the artist’s pursuit of individuality and his disinterest in following what may be the current trend at any point in time.
The effects of the geometric abstractions are considerable on viewers, with the images open to wide interpretation. They can have a dramatic effect on individual emotions, and often solicit comment from visitors to this Gallery where there is nearly always at least one large example on display.
Recently a young teenage girl visited the Gallery with her parents and returned again and again to the same geometric composition. Her parents were surprised, and very pleased with their daughter’s intense interest and purchased the painting. It was the first artwork she had ever reacted too and couldn’t explain why, but the emotions she felt were obviously palpable.
The geometry is still there, more often in smaller works like Sapphire Spring with its elements of realism separated and highlighted by the geometric patterns. The preparation times alone for the geometric compositions are time consuming. It sometimes takes days to prepare for a large work resplendent in the geometry that provides Voigt the opportunity to present his kaleidoscopic view of landscape, for example in South Coast Dreaming or Valley of Light.
In larger sweeping works the geometry may be combined with more realist overall imagery and reduced to foregrounds, or as layers of whimsical elements such as in the shadows of Storm at Sea. In another, triangles placed vertically become palm fronds and their curvature indicates wind direction. In others geometric rock shapes often assimilate the rock’s basic crystal structures.
Impressive in this exhibition are the large scale ethereal and mysterious landscapes such as the striking Cave Falls and Free River promoting the passage and sounds of falling and rushing water, the majestic rock sentinels commanding attention in Textures of Time, the cool summertime breezy appeal of Sanctuary and the bright openness of the wider countryside of Beyond the Boundaries that could be viewed by looking out of many a window in the rural areas around the Canberra region.
And striking horizons are appearing, a jet stream laden sky menaces a tranquil Beach Passage, and a line of trees border a romantic ethereal view of a calm pool to invoke a tranquil mood in the subtle wetland scenario of Silence.
The horizon provides a colour progression opportunity in these works from dark to extreme light, particularly when change is about to come across the line. The darkness of the approaching weather change is heavily contrasted with the sunshine on the calm sea in Storm at Sea.
This visual phenomena is something the artist has observed over relatively long periods of time when fishing or skiing and is capitalised on as the quickly changing weather harbours differing light conditions and levels of contrast.
In the lower Gallery during the time of this exhibition, are several works from earlier periods of the artists career, such as the dark and very mysterious Wilderness River Secrets, the epic scope of Bogong High Plains and an Untitled 1978 work very reminiscent of his 1976 Blake Prize winning entry, Blue Requiem in acrylic and stainless steel on canvas.
Be it acrylic, watercolour, mixed media, geometric, mythical or mysterious, David Voigt draws his viewer into a kaleidoscopic and mystery-laden view of the landscape. His images are timeless and rich in beauty and quality.
Transcending Time and Place is a major exhibition of new and ongoing works from one of Australia’s important and widely collected artists and continues at Bungendore Wood Works Gallery until early August.
Stan d’Argeavel MA (Visual Arts)
Bungendore Wood Works Gallery