2005 White Lines

In 2004 I went to stay at Hill End for a month at Haeflingers Cottage, it was my first art residency and it was a most exciting time. Inspired by the explosion of the color of nature, the red of the soil and it's ravaged marks from the gold mining, the overwhelming sense of history and past lives, I went on many walks documenting my journeys. The shadows in my abstracted rose petals became my white line, my mapping mark, the intense colors reflecting my emotions and thoughts. 

Professionally as an artist this residency had a profound effect on my development as an artist. While I had spent a week painting large chunks of my New Paining show in a tiny room overfacing a rock tidal pool at Bendalong on the South Coast during a holiday.To spend a month totally immersed in the landscape, drawing and painting in the Haeflinger studio shifted how I made art and I would repeat this into the future. As a basically self taught artist time and studio poor I had spent years with two small children making art at night and on the weekend at the kitchen table. I soaked up the luxury of a residency studio and the space and time to dream. 

Bathurst Regional Gallery Director Richard Perram came and spent time at my studio during the residency. I was privileged to be selected by him for a solo show at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery from the works inspired by the residency. The title of the show was White Lines and ran alongside coincide the larger Bathurst Gallery travelling show 'Fireworks' tracing the incindenary in Australian Art, curated by Gavin Wilson.

White Lines would show at SPAN Galleries in Melbourne. As well as on the Ground Floor Gallery at Mary Place Gallery in Paddington. On the First Floor Internaltional Australian artist would Justine Cooper premiered her series of large format photographs/videos Saved from Science. Taken her year as first artist-in-residence in the storage areas of the American Museum of Natural Museum in New York City on an Australia Council Grant. These works of Justine's would then feature in the next Queensland Gallery AAPT and go into the galleries collection.



2005 Catalogue Essay- White Lines



Gabrielle Courtenay’s life is a commitment to painting. As such, it is a life lived in full and vibrant colour. After so many years teaching others to paint, make and create, Courtenay now teaches us to see and through seeing, feel and experience the world.


Her new paintings push us towards strong colour and even stronger form, informed by a passionate and engaged interest in what contemporary artists such as Sean Scully, Rusty Peters, Paji Honeychild and Peter Adsett can teach her through their work. Courtenay has expanded her work and taken it to a place of difficult relationships and the meeting of oppositions.


In recent exhibitions Courtenay’s focus has been the delicate and sensual figure of the flower, be it rose or magnolia, to which she applied the dramatic transformative force of her will; turning simple organic shapes into abstractions each with an energetic, even sexual core. Courtenay’s incessant making of images reveals her engagement in a never-ending endeavour to ‘harness energy’ by building a dynamic living force on canvas.


But in her newest work, Courtenay has let go the feminine flower and launched herself into ‘pure’ abstraction, albeit one grounded in a tangible experience of the natural world. She continues the legacy of her artistic forbears Motherwell, Rothko and Scully, in aiming for emotional affect that sits deep within the beholder, sent there by relationships of colour. Not for her the softly harmonious colours of a Monet – Courtenay’s dramatic and sometimes discordant colour schemes are designed to set us on edge; to feel, to react and to be transformed. Simple harmony, she knows instinctively, is not productive; it doesn’t allow us to explore relationships, good or bad, in the same way as the boldly dissonant.


Her motif – a sort of ‘seam’ – no longer runs the edge of an implied body or a ring of petals. Its referents too have changed, from the rose to a waterhole, emblematic of Courtenay’s fascination for the energy of Indigenous artists like Mankaja painter Paji Honeychild. She has described how she sees an artist like Honeychild enter the landscape, ‘in the same way that I went into the rose’. Her aim then becomes to move the energy of the painting to a ‘more universal space of landscape and time’. Following her recent residency at Hill End spending 4 weeks in Haefliger Cottage, she describes her amazement at coming upon the ‘waterholes’ – dams, ponds, pits and so on – in the landscape, feeling their powerful energy and life force, representing to her the ‘female forces in the universe’. The figures that result from her intuitive observations act like Barnett Newman’s zip: electrifying and animating fields of colour to present us with pure painting pleasure.


In this exhibition, as in life, Courtenay drives herself in the pursuit of painterly success; her goal to really move her audience; to move herself through the act of painting. If we are careful and attentive to what she offers us, we will indeed be moved, and our perception of space and our bodies, and the energy within them, will be changed as a result.

Jackie Dunn, 2005

March 2005