Landscapes of the Larapinta Trail

NG Art Gallery 5th - 23rd July

NG Art Gallery

Driving up the Larapinta Trail in The Northern Territory, Rachel Fairfax, was so inspired by the landscape, she was sketching in the car. ‘I got a bit car sick,’ she laughs, ‘But I just had to document it. There was so much to capture and you can just never do it justice. It’s a special massive place.’  
On expedition with the likes of artists Leo Robba, Elisabeth Cummings, Euan Macleod and Amanda Penrose-Heart, this trip was a truly aesthetic exploration of place.

At the very core of Rachel’s practice is an underlying connection and resonance with her subject matter. Like an actor who takes on a role and plays a character with great sensitivity, Rachel Fairfax immerses herself to the point of cohesion, propelled by a compulsion to do her subject justice. She merges herself and the work, fusing herself into the landscape and gently coaxing the viewer inside her vision.

‘I do lots and lots and lots of drawings.’ And draw she does. Box upon box of line drawings are stacked in her studio, the walls are plastered with paintings, constructive directions and artists quotes. Every available bench surface is covered with ceramics, palettes, brushes, photos and paint. Like her ideas, her studio is full to brimming.

Her spontaneous sketches and acrylic paintings whirled out on tour are refined and tightened in her studio. They become considered, well structured paintings of the Australian landscape. Layers of paint are built up with her distinctive brush strokes reminiscent of Cezanne, Godfrey Miller and his student John Passmore.

Her mark making has a life force of its own. She works the layers of paint with a knife, ‘when it’s too thick I scratch it back… like a stick scratching the dirt.’ These paintings reverberate with solitude, spirituality and awe.

Many of her ceramic pieces are moulded by hand.  Some vessels are thrown by the well known Australian ceramicist Cameron Williams. They have a rawness reminiscent of the rock faces she observed in the Dessert. She paints them front to back. Trees bending over the edges and soaring round to the base. It’s a beautiful technique that shows how transferrable her skill is to other mediums.

With living and working arrangements all over the world, it’s a wonder she seems so focused, and it’s not hard to see her painting gives her that. She patiently chips away at each work, with positive wonderment at what comes out of the kiln or develops in a painting.

‘There are no figures in my landscapes’. However, there is a profound sense of oneness and omnipotent presence in the landscape. An active meditation and contemplation, Landscapes is the documentation of the profound serenity to be experienced in rugged outback Australia.

Rachel Fairfax studied at National Art School from 1998 to 2002. She has exhibited professionally since 2003 in group and solo shows across NSW and has shown work in Bathurst Regional Gallery and Hazelhurst Regional Gallery. Her work is held in major public and private collections including ArtBank, Tetsuya’s Restaurant, Defiance Gallery Collection, Ray Hughes Gallery Collection, Reg Richardson and Jonathan Self Private Collection. She has won two Reg Richardson Scholarships and been awarded two Hill End Residencies. In 2006 she won the Art Moment Painting Prize and in 2011 she was shortlisted for the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing.

Landscapes is her first solo show at NG Art Gallery and will be opened by Artist and Former Director of the National Art School, Bernard Ollis on Tuesday the 5th of July 2010.

Copyright © 2010 Rachel Fairfax