Kate Stevens: Scenes from an afternoon. Nancy Sever Gallery, Gorman Arts Centre, 55 Ainslie Ave, Braddon. Until November 18.
Kate Stevens, who has just been awarded the $50,000 inaugural Evelyn Chapman Art Award for her painting Gaza, part of the Drones over Aleppo series on display at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space at Gorman Arts Centre, is having her second solo exhibition at the Nancy Sever Gallery.
Unlike her war imagery, which has been mitigated through the electronic media, Scenes from an afternoon is a series of fairly naturalistic oil on canvas studies of the brown and gold landscape in the Braidwood region.
They are very pleasing impressionistic studies with a visceral quality to the paintwork as emotive and rapid brushstrokes block out the landscape masses. They are somewhat reminiscent of another Braidwood-based artist, John R. Walker, except the imagery here is a little more literal, the paint application more confident and the general outlook more optimistic.
Stevens, in her previous exhibition at this gallery in 2016, visited a not dissimilar Braidwood landscape, except it was a bit greener then, and that series placed an emphasis on the idea that these were images taken out of a car. Windscreens and rear-view mirrors were left in place to anchor the artist’s reality.
In this exhibition, although we are conscious of the edge of the road, she appears to have stopped the car and paused to have a proper look.
There is a certain seriality, or formulaic quality to the paintings, where we are observing the same clump of trees, herd of cattle, brown pasture, at roughly the same time in the afternoon.
For example, in Scenes from an afternoon numbers 4, 6, and 11 have close compositional relationship. Unlike the French Impressionists who would revisit the same motif at different times of day to capture the changing effects of light, Stevens in Scenes from an afternoon numbers 9, 12 and 14, revisits the same motif at the same time of day as if to make the point that no two scenes can ever be the same and that the human eye will always discover something new in each encounter.
Stevens is an accomplished technician and at the age of 39 has mastered well her craft, whether it be in landscape painting or portraiture.
The attraction of these smallish landscape studies lies in the expressive boldness of the brushstrokes and the sense of radiating colour and late afternoon heat with its lazy elongated shadows.
It will be good to see her challenged with a major landscape project.