Reviews/Visual Art

A vivid and vibrant love affair

5 November 2019

Review: Lesley Meaney, ‘Becoming Australian’ ·
Holmes à Court Gallery, West Perth ·
Review by Craig McKeough ·

Lesley Meaney’s love affair with Australia is writ large on the walls and the spaces in between, in the Holmes à Court Gallery in West Perth.

It’s been a 50-year relationship for the British-born Meaney, who must surely identify as Australian by now.

But as the title of this show spells out, for this Perth artist, becoming Australian has been a long, gradual process.

Meaney arrived in Australia in 1969 with a design diploma and teaching qualifications under her belt, a background that served her well as she viewed her new surroundings with an inquiring eye.

As she moved around, and lived, taught and worked in different parts of the country, she clearly absorbed its essence and found much of it ingrained in her visual psyche.

This is reproduced in spectacular fashion in her large catalogue of artwork brought together for a 50-year retrospective.

From the vivid bursts of colour in her acrylic and gouache paintings to mixed media works and wearable jackets and tunics, Meaney has captured the palette of her adopted country. This is most evident in the vibrant reds, earthy ochres and ghostly whites of the outback in a stunning series of landscapes.

Meaney captures the palette of her adopted country in the vibrant reds, earthy ochres and ghostly whites of the outback.

Her trademark stitched canvases combine two disciplines to arresting effect. The vertical stitched canvas strips add dynamism to the acrylic paintings — the colours vibrate and the scenes dazzle with light as we are forced to consider seemingly familiar landscapes in a new way.

These are perhaps the strongest pieces in an impressive and eclectic collection.

This combination of disciplines is a regular feature of Meaney’s practice, as is her tendency to tackle one technique, master it and move on.

This has led to her compiling a diverse range of skills, from painting, drawing, sewing, textiles and using found objects. She expresses them as abstract and representational pieces, on bold, expansive canvases, in miniature works and intriguing “shelf collections” of small pieces.

As with any show of this kind — sprawling in space as well as over time — it is difficult to grasp quickly a coherent overview of what sort of artist Lesley Meaney is.

Perhaps the answer lies precisely in the diversity on display. This exhibition underlines her constantly shifting focus and her urge to continually chase fresh concepts and discover new techniques in her ongoing process of becoming Australian.

The ‘Becoming Australian’ exhibition continues until November 17. Meaney will present an artist talk at the gallery at 2pm on November 16.

The exhibition travels to Vasse in February 2020.

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Author —
Craig McKeough

Craig McKeough is a writer and visual artist, with a lifetime’s experience in journalism, covering everything from the arts to horse racing, politics and agriculture. Craig has always been drawn to the swing; an egalitarian, grounding piece of equipment where you can go as high and wild as you want, but you’ll always return to where you started.

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