Be still

Be Still – Figure in Landscape No.38

2023 Oil on Linen 765 x 1020mm $4800

Be Still. This Myrtle Beech grows on the banks of the Liffey River in the camping ground at Liffey Falls Reserve. It bears the scars of torrents of water when the river floods. But it holds its ground even though the earth beneath it has been washed away. It has learned to be still and hold fast even in diversity. The tree reaps its reward. A still pond has developed around it and visitors are able to take time out and be still. Or put another way – it is still there.

A winter painting

Light in the Tasmanian winter is limited. As the sun moves into the northern hemisphere our days are short. While the winter sun here rises at 8 am and sets by 5 pm the light in the rainforest is available for a much shorter period of time. So in June, the available light for painting at this open location is between 11 am and 2 pm.

I am only able to work on one painting a day. I have to abandon my paintings deeper in the forest as they rarely get direct light through to the forest floor. So I have winter paintings. The light is low and qualitatively different in winter. So when we hit the equinox of spring, I leave the winter paintings for next Winter.

So this painting ‘Be Still’ is a darker painting – reflecting the cold dark conditions but celebrating the light highlighting the leaves amid the darkness. The colour is also different. The greens are more yellow and acrid. This adds to the difficulty of a faithful rendition of the light and colours of a Tasmanian Winter. Tasmanian landscape painting is well known for its moody dark lighting.

Japanese design influence.

The design structure of this work was deliberately framed to reflect a Japanese way of recording the landscape. There are no golden mean rules used here. From the ‘Wabi Sabi’ wild roots and rocks to the use of the ‘Ma’ – the resting place of the eye in the stillness of the water.

In Japanese landscapes, the trees are placed either hard on the left or right and normally vertical. The branches and other features lead the eye off the canvas and back on from a different direction. In Western painting, the eye is contained within the painting leading you to a design focus. In Japanese art you see through to the quiet, the point of contemplation. While it may seem a contradiction of this, paintings of Mount Fuji place the iconic mountain in the place of the ‘Ma’ – but that’s the point. It is the spiritual place of reflection.

In case this gives a wrong impression when I frame a picture to start painting, this is the point of the design decisions. Once I start painting I don’t move the elements around, or construct the work. I then paint what is in front of me even if inconvenient to the design. This helps to maintain a natural look and it in fact emphasizes the Wabi Sabi (the wild beauty) of the landscape.