A selection of recent paintings and drawings, by
Decoy Café Bar Gallery, 303 Exhibition St, Melbourne
27 November 2012 - 1 February 2013
An exhibition of 26 works by Erica Wagner is currently on show at the Decoy café at 303 Exhibition Street Melbourne. This exhibition extends to 1 February 2013. It is an exciting show composed of oils on canvas, acrylic on canvas, pastel on paper and mixed media on paper as well as one drawing of ink on paper.
The exhibition is titled “Retreat” and represents about 12 months' work undertaken in a solo fashion drawing inspiration from solo holidays in Tarra Valley in Gippsland, on the coast at Kilcunda and in Walkerville South.
Erica has drawn inspiration from her teachers, Yvonne Audette and Richard Birmingham, and her fellow artists at the Melbourne Studio School. Her pursuit of self expression in painting and drawing complements a successful career as a publisher of children’s books.
Erica is the winner of the 2011 Contemporary Art Society's Annual Exhibition with her collage, Telling you the story of my life. Two other works have also received awards: Fay, one autumn day (Highly Commended in the 2011 CAS Annual Exhibition) and Mermaid Nude (Highly Commended in the 2011 VAS Winter Exhibition).
Erica has exhibited with the Victorian Artist Society, the Pastel Society of Victoria as well as participating in a number of group exhibitions with the Melbourne Studio School and fellow artists.
Erica has a strong personal pictorial language which expresses her emotional reactions to the physical world. Her work falls partly within an impressionist tradition seeking to capture the light and form of natural objects and partly within a more modern and expressionist tradition using colour to express an emotional reaction to forms observed in the natural world.
This is particularly evident in some of the landscape paintings. Thus Ferny Glade is a study in acrylic on canvas of a circle of light coming through a dark thicket of ferns and trees. This painting is a study of darkness and light. The dark areas are denominated predominantly in a cool blue area which encircles a central shape of light greens and mauves. A light yellow drawing of a fern provides a foreground form. The colours are natural and could be viewed as local colour but their intensity and the contrast between them creates a mood of drama and stillness. There is a very effective contrast between the burnt sienna of the tree trunks in the foreground and the blues and turquoises of the shadow side of the forms. Acrylic paint is very effectively used to create an intensity of pure colour.
Erica clearly enjoys the experience of plein aire painting and in her larger work (Wild Coast and The Breakaways, Sunrise and The Breakaways Late Afternoon), there is great freedom of expression. Colour is intensified and is used in an intuitive manner. The two Breakaway paintings express her love of the central Australian landscape with its sense of space and spirit.
Erica’s strong drawing ability is evident in Blue Nude which is a back view of a female figure rendered in pastel on paper. Not only is this work effective because of the expressive pose of the depicted figure, but the cross-hatching over that form with the use of different coloured pastels has provided an interesting intensity to this work. There is a strong interplay of cool and warm colours in this work.
The inventive and confidant nature of Erica’s work is evident in the mixed media and collage works. I was particularly drawn to Walk on By, a collage with acrylics on paper. This painting (probably constructed in the studio) displayed a zingy use of colour and an interesting and complementary use of media. It gave a joyful feeling. Another interesting mixed media work is Gorge, which is a mixed media on paper and has a strong abstract quality.
Amongst the most innovative works on display were Attracting Attention which is a figure study made in mixed media on paper, and Lagoon which is a large acrylic on canvas. Both works investigate the human figure in a fanciful setting. In the former work the back of a human figure is viewed in an imaginary forest inhabited by bird life and in the latter painting a mauve and pink female figure seems to dance in dense abstract shapes. The latter work is particularly effective because of the play of complementary blues pinks and mauves.
In my view, Erica is to be commended for the high standard of this body of work, and in particular for her imagination and courage in pushing boundaries in the use of colour and form. I think that members of the Contemporary Art Society will enjoy this show.
Reviewed by Nathan Moshinsky