Ahead of his upcoming exhibition TRANSIENCE: The Lake Charm Series we sat down with Port Jackson Press artist Wayne Viney, asking him about the inspiration, creation and vision behind this, his latest body of work.
First of all, congratulations on your upcoming exhibition. It’s a beautiful progression of your previous work, but also a return of sorts to your earlier, more literal style. In particular, there are certain features of the landscape, like palm trees, which hint that this work depicts a certain place in particular, rather that the idea of ‘the landscape’ in the more abstract sense. Is this the case?
Yes. I first saw Lake Charm around 2005, I was returning from Swan Hill where I’d had a work in the Print Award. I was surprised to see this huge lake in the middle of nowhere! I stopped and did a couple of quick drawings and went back a few months later and did more. I thought it would make an interesting series, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I finally decided the time was right.
The palm trees were intriguing to me, and looked so incongruous sitting there on the horizon line that I was instantly drawn to them. They became more prominent in my work as the series progressed. They were like exclamation marks in an otherwise flat landscape.
I knew the landscape around Lake Charm was a gift in terms of composition. The irrigation channels created strong diagonal forms which balanced the horizon line, thus leading the viewer into the landscape, a classic compositional device.
Transience is an interesting name for this body of work. Can you extend upon how this notion relates to your prints?
I always saw this series in terms of a low horizon with a band of trees reflected in water, a relatively static image. The drama as such could then take place in the skies above; the weather, the changing light, clouds forming and storms passing. I relished the opportunity to create these rather dramatic effects, often using large brushes. To answer your question, then, I thought of the landscape below as timeless and unchanging, while above, clouds pass, storms come and go and the seasons change – the transience of nature.
However, in a real sense, I ‘m just doing what I have done for years, working with the elements of sky, water and land.
Do you think this notion of transience, in particular reference to the passage of time, also speaks to a certain inevitability and repetition? In terms of the Australian landscape, it gives your setting an almost-timelessness, in that the landscape is unanchored to a particular temporality. The landscape can never be seen as a static thing against the backdrop of time and seasonal changes that impact upon it…
I think there was always a desire to convey that a flat, relatively featureless landscape can be made into something more profound, even beautiful, and that beauty constantly changes. The challenge of that appealed to me.
Speaking of ‘transience’ a little more literally, does the term refer to developments, or evolutions in your own practice? The colour palette of this series — or, rather, the absence of one — is in stark contrast to the more abstracted, colourful renditions of the landscape of your previous work.
The Lake Charm Series is the most literal work I have done in some years. I felt the time was right to return to representational landscape. I’d pushed the ‘minimal’ landscapes such as the Solitude of Sea series about as far as I could, thus the options were either to move into total abstraction, or simply end up repeating myself.
The Solitude of Sea works were refined and elegant, almost entirely devoid of mark-making. They were done exclusively with rollers and a tiny amount of brushwork emphasising subtle colour combinations over a long band of sea. With the new work, I was conscious that I wanted to loosen things up, to make it fresher and spontaneous and I hope the works reflect this. The prints were a joy to work on and were done with great gusto. I wanted the brushwork to be visible and the excitement I felt to be apparent. Montotypes are, of course, idea for this way of working; ideas come and go, an area can be wiped clean and redone in seconds, and there are many happy accidents along the way!
I knew this series would be in black and white because it is inherently dramatic and I also didn’t want colour to get in the way of the immediacy I felt the works needed. I saw the works as pared down, going back to essentials so to speak. Colour would have been a distraction.
How would you explain this body of work to somebody who had never seen it?
I would say these works are about the timeless, often dramatic beauty of landscape; about trees, water, skies, the horizon line and the passing of time. The works depict an ordinary little lake in north-east Victoria, near Kerang – an area which I hope I have made extraordinary. And, of course, with a name like Lake Charm, how could I resist.
TRANSIENCE: The Lake Charm Series will run from 1st – 21st June.
Opening celebration Saturday June 2nd 2-4PM.