"Good art should be surprising, astonishing", Rita Hall
The works in Rita Hall’s new exhibition trace the evolution of an artist. They tell a story of practice and process and adversity overcome.
Some works were started and completed in a temporary studio. Other works commenced in the temporary and were completed in the new studio and others emerged in the bright, airy light of that new space.
They reference works lost in Rita’s studio fire of 2015 and convey departures taken in finding a new way forward. They represent the transitional processes of reimagining, rebuilding and recreating.
Much of the work retains the stylistic elements and preoccupations that have come to define Rita’s paintings of recent years. In these still life compositions, Rita’s focus is on unassuming and everyday objects, paying homage to the 20th century Italian artist Georgio Morandi, a key influence. As with Morandi, Rita seeks to create quiet works worthy of contemplation, harmonious compositions, worthy of the viewers attention.
Ordinary objects, keenly observed, are transformed. These works allow us to look beyond the object. As Rita proposes, who stops to look at a cushion?
The subject becomes the vehicle through which we see the hand of the artist and the technical, formal elements of artistic representation – the interplay of shape, texture, tone, colour, composition and balance.
Through this work, Rita strives to celebrate the simplicity of form. Focusing on the ordinary object enables an investigation of elements such as shape affected by light, in its surroundings. As she observes, “What could be simpler than shape?” Directing attention to the subtleties of these elements leaves little to hide behind. Stripped of contemporary trends toward novel, amusing, shocking and provocative subjects, the works rest on the integrity of its observation and execution.
In keeping with the tradition of still life painting, the background is a key compositional part of the works and Rita prefers to keep her backgrounds neutral, minimizing visual noise. Working in unfamiliar spaces has, however, brought new challenges to a continuing interest in working with the properties of shadow and light. The light in the temporary studio in particular, was very different to what she was used to, resulting in several works in which shadow assumes more of a presence.
In the creation of this body of work, Rita has borrowed from techniques and subjects that she has developed over time. There are echoes of the collographs she produced between 1999-2006 featuring bundles and packages, created by passing inked fabric through a printing press and working the prints over with charcoal, paint and pastel to create richly textured and highly tonal surfaces.
Subsequent experimentation with the inclusion of fabric and lace on canvas has enabled Rita to develop her own stylistic approach to collage. She employed this approach in the body of work destroyed in the studio fire and has revisited and refined the technique in this new work. For Rita, using this technique in painting is not unlike the process of creating a relief print. It anchors this recent work in the print making based techniques, which form the foundation upon which her successful artistic career has been based. A continuing interest in process driven experimentation is reflective of Rita’s print making practice, bringing with it the excitement of accidental discovery, based on well founded technical knowledge. She delights in creating unusual juxtapositions, in creating works with a playful quirkiness, which achieve symmetry, balance and the appearance of order.
Before 2006, Rita confesses she was too impatient to paint. In transitioning from printmaking to painting she eschewed formal training with a recognised teacher to minimize external influences in developing an emerging style. Rita is, however, indebted to one time teacher and celebrated artist Geoff Wilson, who taught her not to take a lazy approach to art making. His influence has ignited a determination to extend her technical ability and build the critical judgment to evaluate her own work.
In an evolving artistic career spanning more than 50 years, Rita continues to look for new ways to create work that resonates and displays evidence of a rigorous, highly disciplined and organised approach. The importance of technical accomplishment in achieving artistic excellence sees her strive to create an aesthetic sensibility defined by its complex and refined finish. She remains true to her purpose - to make people stop and look at what is there, to make something worth looking at, to uncover magic.