a selection of recent works by
Joy Elizabeth Lea
Decoy Café Bar Gallery, 303 Exhibition St, Melbourne
20 December 2011 - 17 February 2012
Joy’s current exhibition of paintings is a real delight. Having viewed her work I was left with a feeling of exuberance, energy and a real feeling for nature.
Joy is an intuitive and expressive painter. The exhibition depicts her response to the landscape. She creates a balance between the inner and outer worlds. Inspired by her subject matter she translates her feelings into gestural marks which reflect the colours of nature and which are applied in a rhythm suggestive of the movement of natural forms. Although most of her paintings are based on nature, she occasionally moves into a form close to the tradition of abstract expressionist painting exemplified in the work of artists such as De Kooning, Appel, Dubuffet, and Fairweather.
Although Joy’s work is loose and free I could see that her paintings reflect an excellent understanding of principles of painting. In particular, many paintings were painted on a ground which sometimes was allowed to come through as various gestural marks were applied. This gave the works an airy or light feeling as a result of the layering of paint in discrete areas leaving some areas untouched.
A good example of this technique was the painting Tropical Vines which is 120 x 90 cm and is an oil on canvas. Vibrant burnt orange and yellow patches or spaces showed through the painting but were overlaid in most places by a web of green and grey marks suggestive of interlocking vines in a tropical setting.
Another aspect of Joy’s skill as a painter was her skilful use of complementary colours. By way of example, the painting closest to the entrance of the restaurant, Forest Creatures (46 x 71 cm - oil on canvas) showed patches of venetian red under-paint overlaid with gestural marks of turquoise, alizarin and green with the cooler colours providing a lovely contrast to the warm ones. Also these colours reflected the colours of the Australian Bush.
Further examples of this technique were the two “undergrowth” paintings (Undergrowth 1 and 2) which are 75 x 50 cm in size and are oils on canvas. They show orange underpainting with rapidly applied gestural lines and marks of greens purples and white, reminiscent of grass and foliage.
An admirable aspect of Joy’s work is her sensitive abstraction of lines which form a lacy web of marks over the dense underlying colours. In this respect her work reminded me of the mesh effect created by Ian Fairweather in some of his work. A very good example of this technique is Dry Land Vines - Two Mile Creek Finke River NT which was a mixed media work on paper 78 x 100 cm. Lacy white lines criss cross an umber background reminiscent of vines planted on hot earth.
Perhaps the loosest and most abstract of the paintings seemed to be Ellery Creek – Critchley Ranges 2, 2011 which is an oil on canvas 120 x 90 cm in size. This painting sings with a mesh of vibrant red madder, ochre, greens and oranges and feels as if it was painted quickly to capture a memory of the outback. Although it is loose and free it also has dark patches reflecting the depth of shadows and undergrowth.
My own favourite among the excellent work shown in the exhibition, is the painting Down by the Riverside which hangs over the stairs and is 100 x 76 cm in size. Most of the orange underpainting does not show through but the play of pink, red, blue, mauve green and light grey marks provide provide a great deal of vitality to this work. The dark blue patches give a sense of depth and the lighter grey patches give a sense of light.
Another favourite is This is How I Remember Summer which 76 x 100 cm in size. It seemed to me that this painting shows Joy’s confident and competent mastery of her style. The painting is a complex work with skilfully juxtaposed colours and shapes.
I hope that members see this show which I think everyone will enjoy.