2003 New Painting


In seeking to explore further the spiritual possibilities of abstraction in my painting. I again choose the Rose for my subject matter but in these works I abandoned colour to create monochromatic abstracted paintings drawing the viewers into the folds of shadows and hopefully a different state of perception and imagination.

These works were shown at SPAN Galleries, Flinders Lane, Melbourne and a selection were then chosed for a group show at Mary Place Gallery 2004. The painting Still 5, 2003 was chosen to be in Cromwell's Touring Prize Sydney, Melbourne, London & Washington and is now in the New Norcia Art Collection in WA. See Exhibitions for the full set of images of works in the show.  


2003 Catalogue Essay– New Painting

Shadows on Porcelain

 Gabrielle Courtenay’s latest body of work is testimony to the rich rewards of dedicating one’s paintbrush to a singular study. This evocative suite of paintings is an elegant and natural extension of her earlier exhibitions, Allure and Shift, in its concise exploration of abstraction arising from organic form.  Collectively, the sophistication and visual maturity of these new canvases suggest the artist has discovered a fresh well of inspiration from which to draw her delicately rendered forms.

Courtenay’s new paintings – titled simply White, Still, Madder and Dark hover together like a series of poetic verses, each representing a subtly different stanza of the one statement. In contrast with her previous groupings of work, these compositions suggest the artist is moving her attention away from saturated decorative colour and focusing instead on developing detail and tonal variation in her imaginary shapes.  Diffusing or distilling her subject matter to a more profound degree, she devotes greater energy to traversing the two-dimensional picture plane. Although points of origin may still exist – the gentle undulations of body parts, floral blooms or sweeping landscape – they are less apparent 

Without losing its innate sensual intimacy, this new work contains a surface tension that transcends the quietly feminine allusions of the artist’s earlier imagery.  The canvas features a central shadow or ‘slash’ a space that is entirely subjective and open to the viewer’s interpretation. In the monochrome white works, alternately soft and hard edges of brushwork create a semblance of shadows on porcelain. These provocative crevices or folds conjure visual spaces rich in possibility yet difficult to fully penetrate. By contrast, the striking indigo and red fissures appear more dynamic. Their stridency is tinged with the possibility of myriad emotional analogies – from anger and pain to eroticism and epiphany. 

The inherent duality throughout this exhibition is both enigmatic andmysterious. It is as if each abstract canvas were a form of game where the viewer’s eye is tempted to look deeper into the floating forms yet, through this act of looking the image surface suddenly flattens and becomes obscure, throwing up a veil to concrete meaning. 

These new images are an invitation to join her on a journey into the secrecy of the picture plane, seeking pictorial clarity and fresh sources of untrammelled visual beauty.  Although she approaches her art with sincerity there is always a sense that one of her eyes is resting outside the image, smiling softly at the gravity of the instinct that dedicates her to a life to the act of painting. Anna Clabburn 2003