Water & Stone at Heathcote

Navigations of Jellyfish will take us on an exploration of the Swan River at Water & Stone, a new exhibition that will open at the Heathcote Museum & Gallery on Friday, 23 March 2018.

“Water & Stone is a response by artist Stephanie Reisch to abstract ideas involving light, space and time in relation to the Swan River precinct. Explored primarily through the sibylline navigations of the jellyfish, an ancient and primordial hunter, the rich history surrounding the archaeology of the river networks, sand beds and underwater cave systems is paralleled with tactile negotiations involving water and stone,” said Dr Beth George Lecturer, School of Design, The University of Western Australia.

“Through painting and drawing the artist touches on deeper themes that include myth, ritual and unchartered worlds. Alchemy, even shamanism, have been linked to Stephanie Reisch’s use of the physical fragments of once-living creatures in her paintings. It is intriguing to know that on a particulate level the life of a thing is prolonged through its embedding in her work: that the work contains life,” said Dr George.

“When I met Stephanie many years ago, I was intrigued by her collection of animal bones. They were organised into little compartments and vials, and Stephanie told me that she put them in her paintings. Put them in, I thought, and I searched the canvases, seeing no little jaw bones or tiny femurs visible among the strokes and clots of paint. She told me that her paintings ‘responded’ to them.

“Without the caption, an onlooker would not know that such a conjuring is at work, which means the impact of this alchemy is twofold: the first is that the knowledge of its presence might change the way the observer perceives the work, to lend a kind of power to the piece, or change the way they visually sift through it.

“The second, and what to me holds a greater fascination, is how that material incorporation of the special thing, the vital thing, the valuable and powerful thing that is the vestige of the animal, might be intrinsic to the production of the work. How it might be instructive to the artist – how it might guide the making of the work, the thinking about the work, how it might both literally and figuratively get inside the work and shape it. Austrian architect and artist Walter Pichler was known to damage his paper, sometimes through the continual laying down of pressure and wet media, but sometimes before he even began drawing, so that the marks and folds might offer him ‘cues’.

“It is engaging to imagine how in Stephanie’s case the bone dust and particles could curate the painting – how she might meditate on the beings themselves, becoming closer to their lives in the act of working on and with them, that she might bring their intelligence to bear. Deep and complex, elemental and not a little ghostly, ethereal and occasionally visceral, her paintings testify to a communion with her subjects whether physically embodied in the painting or carefully studied.

“The way I ‘read’ Stephanie’s paintings is inward and outward, with no reliable continuum – what I thought was foreground might shift to back, or what I thought positive, negative. I am reminded of Peter Cook’s observation of Masaharu Takasaki’s Free Architecture, “momentarily we cling on to a profile, another clue or hint of a change in surface or an orifice”, but implicitly we continue to float along until we find anchor again. The overall effect is of things in suspension, which is why this work, focusing on the Swan river precinct and its manifold acts of water (immersion, weathering, flowing) makes for an apt territory for Stephanie’s exploration.

“Jellyfish are one of the main subjects in this series. Failed tests at painting with their vellum lead instead to imagining the territory from their vantage point beneath the water. In particular, Stephanie has focused on the Moon jellyfish, who navigate with currents and light levels. Almost transparent, their bodies articulate and reflect these forces. Jellyfish, which are highly sculptural when suspended in water and utterly floppy when removed from it, and limestone, rigid and structural but made tenuous and delicate by weathering: these subjects seem well suited to that notion of compositional drift and a flip-flopping between positive and negative form.”

The exhibition will officially open on Friday, 23 March 2018 at 6.00pm. Members of the public wishing to attend the opening should RSVP by Tuesday, to heathcote@melville.wa.gov.au or phone 9364 5666.

The exhibition runs from Saturday, 24 March to Sunday, 29 April 2018, at Heathcote Museum & Gallery, Heathcote Cultural Centre, 58 Swan House, Duncraig Road, Applecross. The opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 10.00am to 3.00pm, Saturday and Sunday 12noon to 4.00pm.

For more information, visit www.melvillecity.com.au/heathcote or contact 1300 635 845 | 9364 0666.