A Natural Palette
STORY AND IMAGES BY RICHARD CORNISH
Lauriston artist Sarah Gabriel looks triumphant. She has spent the last six months working on her show Floral Engagement, an exhibition of works on paper and board depicting the flowers, birds, fabrics and objects that intertwine through her life on a beautiful bush property at Lauriston. While the shock of the new of the October exhibition has settled down, the show has left a lasting legacy. Before the exhibition Sarah had the works photographed in high resolution to create a limited-edition collection of prints with faithful reproduction of colour and tone.
A selection of originals hangs in her Kyneton Gallery, Lauriston Press. Some of the pieces are French ink on old piano rolls that have been carefully joined together to create large areas on which Sarah can paint. One called Berry Delights depicts New Holland Honey eaters perched amongst the branches of a hawthorn bush in full berry. The gold of honey eater, the red of the berries and the green of the leaves are set against a cobalt blue background, itself marked by the rectangular lines that represent notes the pianola would have once played.
In this exhibition you can see the evolution of Sarah as an artist. She is not content to stay with one process. Over the months she was painting she began with ink on paper and moved on to acrylic on board. Her works in acrylic use broader brush strokes and her understanding of complementary colours means she has chosen shades and hues that ostensibly might not work together but when applied to the canvas, as it were, harmonise and create the perception of a natural colour scheme. You can also see the way she uses black to outline the leaves and petals, a technique Margaret Preston was so well known for. In the later paintings she gives this up entirely and lets the colour do all the work.
Technique aside this is a true celebration of Sarah’s floral lifestyle. Surrounding herself in beautiful specimens she has created some pieces that are just a joy to take in. One is a simple still life of proteas and leuccadendrons, outlined in midnight blue, in a blue and white Chinese vase on a white background. It is quite stunning. Sarah also loves fabric. She has painted several still lifes where the scene is set with a central American mantel or a central Asian rug draped over a table or swaddled around the base of a vase.
The spotlight focus on Sarah as an artist has not been totally comfortable for her. She is just as well-known as being the curator of her popular print gallery. While the walls are lined at present with her colourful works normally they are home to the region’s best print makers and artists from further afield. She represents around 40 artists including Kevin Foley. His etched renditions of Border Collies rounding up black faced Suffolk sheep nail the personality of both breeds and the beauty – and hardship – of the rural landscape. There are small local landscapes of tonal artist David Moore who works with oil on canvas and whose use of blocks of colour and form is reminiscent of mid 20th century local artist Clarice Beckett.
37 Piper Street, Kyneton; Wed-Fri 10am
-4pm, Sat-Sun 10am-5pm; (03) 5422 1710