Leanne Barrett: Gallery Visit: Know My Name: Australian Women Artists

Monday 8 February 2021

Gallery Visit: Know My Name: Australian Women Artists

It was oh so nice to be back in the National Gallery of Australia, viewing art again, as my last visit was probably 12 months ago. Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now (Part 1: 14 November 2020 to 4 July 2021), is a wonderful exhibition that contains old favourites and now some new ones too.

Some of my favourite Australian women artists are; Clarice Becket, Stella Bowen, Ethel Carrick, Grace Cossington Smith, Olive Cotton, Grace Crowley, Rosemary Gascoigne, Lola Greeno, Fiona Hall, Joy Hester, Nora Hysen, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Tracey Moffatt, Margaret Olley, Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor and Violet Teague.

My favourite part of a gallery visit, is stopping in front of an artwork, to really take it in. I love to absorb how a painting is created; medium, colours, brush strokes, line, movement, texture and layers. While contemplating a painting I'm reminded that, it is okay to leave the lines from the paintbrush hairs on the canvas for viewers to see because these lines are part of the painting's story. 

Fiona Hall's artwork Tender had my mind wondering in all directions. She uses an artwork title and theme to inspire a multilayered concept, based on the dual meeting of a word. Tender can be used to describe currency/money as well as the expression of soft emotions, love. This artwork was constructed using shredded US dollars to create a range of bird nests. Hall explores how wealth and power can be obtained at the cost of the environment and its destruction, then she reverses the concept by destroying currency to create a habitat for birds and a place for them to raise their young.

Artworks are also about connection. As a viewer I bring my own art knowledge and experiences into the viewing of each piece. This connection can spark emotions, thoughts, memories and even inspiration to create new artworks.

Dorrit Black's The Olive Plantation and Melinda Harper's untitled paintings, inspired my own artistic thoughts about composition, technique, shape and colour. 

Black's painting made me think about my own pattern landscape paintings and how I could add space between rows and trees to represent the ground and soil.

While Harper's painting had me stopping to take a closer look at her use of vibrant colours. The gallery sign explained how Harper paints the colours of the landscape; sky and leaves etc. This resonated something within me. What I love about nature is its colour range. When I go on a nature walk I like to observe the variety of leaf greens and other colours of leaves beyond the autumn displays of red, yellow, orange and brown. 

This exhibition also reminded me of previous NGA exhibitions and my travel around Australia. In a few paintings the patterns on the women's clothing remind me of my wrap that I bought after viewing the 2001 Federation exhibition. I remembered my shell bracelet upon seeing Lola Greeno's shell necklaces. When viewing the artwork by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, I was reminded of my trip to Alice Springs and my woven baskets and bark coolamon. And upon seeing the self portrait of Joy Hester I smiled, thinking about the Hester print I have hanging in my bedroom.

Spending time with art for me is special. It makes me reflect on history and society. But it also inspires ideas for my own creative expression.  

Let me know how Part 1 of Know My Name impacted your emotions, ideas and creativity.

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