Some Things Only Become Clear Much Later… By Sharon Field. Form Studio and Gallery. 1/30 Aurora Ave, Queanbeyan, Until September 2.
This is only Sharon Field's second solo exhibition but she has been exhibiting regularly in group exhibitions since 2007. The 20 works in the exhibition are graphite on paper, watercolour on paper, watercolour on vellum or watercolour and graphite on paper. The artist states that the exhibition "is about plants (and some animals) right at the very end of their lives … and explores the beautiful patterns and delicate tracery of leaves, grasses, and bones as they continue on their journey". As in her earlier work the combination of the scientific and the poetic is beautifully achieved.
Each work is given a title inspired by the poetry of T.S.Eliot. Their scientific names are not recorded but the circumstances of the artist's discovering her "subjects" is provided against each in the accompanying brochure. The addition of the amount of time it took Field to make each work is also included next to the work's dimension. I am not sure I want to know the temporal details of her creative activity and personally found their inclusion odd.
The artist's technical skill is overtly displayed. She is a talented draughtsperson with an astute eye and understanding of the efficacy of her choice of subject in relation to her theme. The works operate as "memento mori" but here of elements of the natural world rather than of humanity. There is a lot to like in the exhibition. I was particularly taken by the three images of tree bark (Catalogue 8, 9 and 10) done in graphite. In these exquisitely imaged pieces Field captures aspects of the bark strips' taxonomy after they have fallen from the trunks and imbues in each a dancer's grace and a hint at the beauty of the (often) overlooked. A Moment's Surrender (Cat. 2) is also impressive in the way the artist extracts pathos out of the slowly disintegrating bird of paradise plant, its life energies seemingly being sapped away as we observe it on the paper.
An image of a snakeskin (Cat.3, Gesture without Motion) is a graphic tour de force. Field's control over her medium (watercolour) is wonderfully demonstrated in this relic of a living creature whose serpentine presence is minutely delineated.
Other works that impressed included The Years that Walk (Cat. 16) and Her Drying Combinations Touched by the Sun's Last Rays (Cat. 19). It is difficult not to be absorbed by the remarkable skill on display in each individual work. The exhibition as a whole, though, was too reliant on the power of the individual works and they were displayed without much consideration of the gallery spaces and the opportunity for familial or other groupings was forsaken for a rather linear compilation that was, frankly, dull.
The inclusion of the "objects" that were the premises for Shields' graphic adventures was a good idea. Instead of grouping them on three plinths away from the works to which they were related, a considered placement of these throughout the spaces might have instilled a bit more energy into the space and made more of the relationship between object and source. Reservations aside, this is an exhibition full of lovely works that deserves to be seen.