Joy Elizabeth Lea

Richmond Library Space 415 Church, Richmond

6 April - 6 June 2011

Joy Elizabeth Lea’s exhibition entitled ‘Wild Forests’ is currently showing at the Richmond Gallery and I hope that many CAS members will be able to see it.

Joy’s work has always been a delight to behold for me and this show is no exception. Joy is ‘concerned with nature, with wild forests and all the intricacies within these habitats ….. the web of life that inhabits our planet’.

The three large paintings displayed on the library wall take us into these complex environments.

Warburton Forest is executed in oils on paper in autumnal colours, dark yellows, ochre, brick red, interspersed with cool white, grey, bluey-green bark peeling off the tall trunks bereft of leaves. This painting takes us into a dense, dry forest with crunching leaves and twigs under our feet. Confidently painted, the artist is very much in control of the medium with swift strokes of colour and splashes of thick greyish-white highlights.

Mound Spring - Finke River is painted in acrylics on canvas and has a completely different colour scheme and atmosphere. Predominant blueness gives this painting a sense of coolness and mystery inviting us to explore what is under the grass, saplings and twigs.

Although it is densely vegetated, streams of light and their reflections permeate the scene. This is a serene painting a place of respite and peace. Once again Joy is a master of what she conveys, her paint is confidently and spontaneously applied and the vegetation although tangled has a geometric order. Looking from a distance it has an appearance of a bouquet of flowers delicately coloured in blues, pinks and lemony-yellow.

Secret Places mainly executed in greys, black and white with twinklets of ochre, clay red and khaki green, is a dark, mysterious forest. Slim trees with no leaves or branches seemingly dream-like in atmosphere. This could have been painted at night or twilight. Once again Joy showed her considerable artistic ability in evoking emotion filled scenes.

In the display case, Joy placed very interesting intricately done folios with sketches, myriads of busy strokes and words to help her remember the scene. There is a sketch which to me looks like a Queensland tropical forest with palms and bushes. In the four coloured pages there are hills reflected in a lake or sea with lots of lovely fluffy clouds. Very dense forest with beautiful greens, pinks and lemon lights flickering between the trees, criss-crossed with either Black Boy plants or burned out branches.

The Melaleuca sketch with trunks in ochres, pale reds and cream are also outlined with energetic black swirls. There was also a fascinating, transparent skeleton of either a feather or leaf placed on one of the sketches, adding an x-ray like dimension onto the underlying drawing, showing us the delicate structure of the object.

Joy is a painter with a clear message of concern over the disappearing Australian forests. She stresses the urgent need for their preservation to ensure that we can pass on the beauty of our country to the next generations. Joy travelled through hundreds of kilometres through Cape York in her attempt to capture the spirit of the place, stopping to note the trees and bushes and snakes slithering off ‘into the scrub that lined the roads’. I think she succeeded very well.

Sophie Skarbek




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