Working on paper

Four Townsville artists

The influence of women on the arts and crafts in Townsville has been a constant feature of local art shows over a number of years. This involves established artists as well as the younger generation.

The strength of the art produced by women was documented in a number of out-of-town shows which in 1986 successfully exported Townsville art to southern exhibition venues. Margaret Wilson exhibited with Macquarie Galleries, Anne Lord with Holdsworth Contemporary Galleries, both in Sydney. Jane Wege and Keryn Abbot Lock had shows with THAT Contemporary Art Space in Brisbane. Prior to this a group of students from the College of TAFE had tested the "climate" at THAT, again with a dominance of female exhibitors. Ranna Hale showed a total art installation Myth, Women and Song at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, also in 1986, and Anneke Silver participated in the exhibition Drawings by Four, which toured the state in 1984.

Though there is no doubt about the strong presence of female artists in the local scene, only wilful interpretation could force a common concern upon them. This becomes apparent in the current exhibition Four Townsville Artists at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery. The joint exhibition is mainly a result of all four artists being (or having been) associated with the Townsville College of TAFE as art instructors and, as a weaker link, is based on the common medium paper.

Margaret Wilson starts from the concept of painterly abstraction. Her paintings and prints reflect the features of two very different types of landscape, the vast grazing lands of the Gulf Country, and the green slopes of the coastal ranges. Her new work included in this exhibition, reveals a growing tendency to introspection, minimalism and austerity.

Anne Lord seeks to combine nature motifs with the process of gestural and action painting, the effect paradoxically being rather one of atmospheric late Impressionism. This causes a certain uneasiness about her work, since the mixture of opposing stylistic concepts seems to neutralize their individual forces.

Jane Wege, a South-African born painter who came to Australia in 1971, seeks to connect the impact African culture had on her in childhood, with recent experiences gained on travels to the North Australian coast, and the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea. Strongly mythological paintings were followed by a series of automatic drawings and "pictures within pictures". Her recent move to Brisbane, to take up teaching at the Queensland College of Art, has caused a re-introduction of urban themes, and a return to collage.

Judy Watson is the only one to pursue feminist issues in this group of artists. Over the past years she has tried to develop a pictorial language that is distinctly feminine, using warm, glowing colours, compositions that dissolve in small shapes and personal marks, and frequent references to the female body. From the start the question is how successful this can be? Moreover, how far it will really help the women's cause. In my view the work (like that of most feminist artists not only in Townsville) will have to become more specific in its topics, intellectually more aggressive, and on the other hand less self-concerned, if it wants to gain respect.