Here and there by Yvonne Boag.
Nancy Sever Gallery, 4/6 Kennedy Street, Kingston. Until September 18.
Some Australian artists develop an unexpected affinity for another country and, without permanently abandoning Australia, maintain this special relationship to their other homeland.
The Melbourne-born Michael Winters became a philhellene at an early age and developed a special relationship with the Greek island of Leros; while he continues to live and work in Australia, he visits Leros at every possible opportunity. Yvonne Boag found her special spiritual home in South Korea, which she visited for the first time in 1993. Ever since, she tries to go there a couple of times a year.
Born in Scotland, she arrived and settled permanently in Australia with her family in 1964, when she was 10, and now works mainly out of Sydney. She has always felt a sense of displacement – suspended between two worlds – never quite at home in either place. She jokes that her attraction for Korea may be that it marks a halfway point between Scotland and Australia.
Boag has a quite literal understanding of place and speaks with a disarming honesty about how different locations affect her art practice. Her Korean paintings generally belong to urban environments and are bright and busy, while the Australian paintings belong to the bush with a more subdued palette and organic curvilinear forms relating to trees and rocks. In her work, colour is symbolic as well as personally evocative of her moods so that, on one hand, she relates to the brightly coloured garments and buildings in Korea, while on the other she "feels colour" as a personal emotion.
Her large Korean paintings at this exhibition, including Waiting Yangcheonro (2015) and the knockout, almost four-metre painting Noksapyeong (2014), are multi-tiered compositions, where the simplified blocks of colour could remind you of the work of Nicolas de Staël. In Boag's case, she arrived at this simplification of form through Korean sources, especially her Korean teacher, Lee Jong Mok, who introduced her to Korean methods of working with paper and simplified compositional structures that are particularly apparent in her gouaches on hanji paper in the exhibition. The sensual aspect is particularly strong in Boag's art, allowing you to hear the sounds of the urban centres and experience the mesmerising intensity of movement. She also has a series of gouache on paper drawings in the show simply titled "Sound".
This show contains several small, delicate acrylic paintings on canvas of Mount Geumgang in North Korea executed in a somewhat sombre palette. This famous beauty spot in recent years has become popular with tourists from South Korea. Her treatment of nature in Australia is quite different, for example if one compares these sombre paintings with the more joyous forms of Sydney Park Trees No.1.
Boag is an inveterate traveller who has lived in Paris and Tokyo. She has also travelled throughout Australia and on several occasions taught at the Lockhart River community on Cape York. Over a long exhibiting career, she has developed a particular artistic language, one that is distinctly her own, and one that she employs with considerable subtlety. As a painter and printmaker, Yvonne Boag occupies a unique position in Australian art.