Striking colour combinations, and the rustic essence of the Australian Queensland landscape, have enthralled artists whom have portrayed it since the dawn of time. Whatever the style of portrayal, landscapes picturing the Queensland forests, open spaces, mountains and lakes, have appeared in galleries around the world. In this essay the work of Margaret Ellen Turner in an exhibition called ‘The Idea of Wallum,’ which is represented by the Noosa Regional Art Gallery in September 2010, will be discussed. The social and political aspects of her chosen theme will be investigated, as will her approach and style of working. Her use of colour and line will be documented and how successful her work is on creating a mood and a sense of emotion, when viewers see and leave the exhibition.
Margaret Ellen Turner is a professionally trained artist; she achieved a Master’s Degree in Sculpture from Reading University in England in 1985-1987. Since then she has been awarded several grants with the latest being 2010, from the Queensland RADF Individual artists grant. Throughout her polished career she has displayed her work in numerous solo and group exhibitions, and has had works acquired by QUT Brisbane, Morden Arts Centre London, and the University of the Sunshine Coast to name a few. (Noosa Regional Art Gallery, 2010)
In her latest exhibition called The Idea of Wallum, it is easy to see how Turners sculptural background, has influenced her ability to paint with depth and expression. Her work has an air of the 3D that sculpture provides, and in a sense requests from the viewer to look into the work, and to look beyond the layers of paint. Her approach is vivid and strong firing rich reds and oranges, and holding them to ransom against the strengths of dark blues and purples. Her chosen colour pallet is rich with a diversity of colours, and although the overall influence is intense with red tones, a deeper and intricate look at the work, reveals a larger colour scheme has been utilized. Turner engages a wealth of colour; she repeatedly overlaps and retracts paint with the aid of a squeegee. The way Turner works with height, width and shadowing effects, brilliantly generates a sense of entrapment within the layers. The eye is continually focusing in and around the work, being pulled and drawn to appreciate the broader scope, and the complexity of the painted experience.
The diversity of colour, tone and line, announces to the viewer a powerful hunger for recognition. The exhibition delivers enough impact, to break the barriers and challenge viewer thoughts about her environmental message. All her work in the exhibition has a common thread and a unique likeness, in doing this Turner has undeniably produced a colour scheme, and a style that delivers the desired impact. If the colour scheme was individualised and the paintings completely different throughout the exhibition, it would clearly not have the desired impact that it does being all the same in colour and form. This is very clever of Turner, as it also brings a sense of urgency and a sense of rage to the overall exhibition. The feeling is hostility; the roaring red and earthy orange tones deliver the essence of an inhospitable terrain, and stay away mentality; the work presence is quite powerful. The message is further relayed and cemented by a video of Turner at work discussing the theme, its purpose and its political statement, whilst showing viewers how the work was created in stages.
The social and political sentiment of the exhibition is not evident from the first encounter and is somewhat lost to the seemingly simplistic nature of the work at first glance. In fact it is only apparent after watching the looped playing video of Turner, that the viewer sees the exhibition from an entirely different perspective. Suddenly the statement seems as clear as day and the works have a new found respect. In this way turner is very intelligent giving her work clarity and conviction to the untrained eyes focused on it. Instead of pondering for meaning, the work is gripping from the beginning leading the viewers on a journey through the eyes of the artist, and into a world of forest degradation, of human interference and destruction.
Turners major influence is her immediate environment, she struggles with progress when it is at the expense of forests and nature. This exhibition was embodied around what is left that resembles a forest, when roads have taken their place, or housing developments have moved in. It is about land clearance and ripping and shredding a section of our existence, a part of our soul. Turner has been quoted as saying “It is like they have raped the land, taken it all and left nothing, no soul, no rebirth, it’s all gone”. The torture she feels is evident in her work, the passion and ravaged abandonment within her work suggest it was a fight to complete. Although she has acknowledged that the work was a struggle to do, due to the physical nature and extreme fatigue she felt during the process of the work, it is clear that her mental state of peace was being challenged also (Turner, 2010 DVD).To produce work of such a high calibre requires dedication, and a release of mental awareness, of what one is trying to convey during the process of creating it. It is evident that Turners inner turmoil has transferred to her work successfully.
Turners’ journey is felt through the exhibition and by the last painting her purpose is very clear and relevant in her exploration of the topic. She has delivered a heart retching account of forest destruction at the hand of man. The level of depth that she has achieved in her work provides the viewer with a desire to look closer, to find hidden meanings and features. The small reminiscence of birds or spots representational of wildlife or rain, wind and fire, can all be seen by looking very closely into and beyond, the layers of transparent paint. The colour pallet, which is highly effective in conveying the hardship and destruction of the forest area, is not an attempt to shock, but has a greater message allowing people to think and remember what is important. The exhibition is certainly not light in nature or purpose, and does leave an inevitable stain on the viewer emotions. However what lingers most is how well the message is relayed and remembered after leaving the exhibition, which proves the real testament here. If one person can be moved by the work of another, and be made to think how they can better the way they impact the world, then it is a successful environmental exhibition.
In conclusion Turners exhibition is highly focused and mature in its delivery, however lacks the ability to draw in the viewer to its message without the use of video commentary assistance. Without the video footage the novice viewer would struggle with the similarity of all the work in colour, tone and line. That said the work is impressively designed and achieved, the layering effects of the paint provide interest and a roving eye that looks for points of interest constantly throughout the viewing process. The colour is spectacular, rich, vibrant and full of energy and fiery vitality, it is definitely worthy of viewing and along with the video aid, the experience is enriching. This essay has delved into the social and political influence of the work and how Turners immediate environment challenged her both mentally and physically, whilst translating her disapproval of forest destruction and clearance. The depth and colour of the work was discussed and how it was able to influence the way the work was read, and how video input added to the overall dynamic of how the exhibition was received. Layering and the application process was touched on to provide an insight into how Turners paint application delivers effectively in the scheme of her work to provide interest and intrigue.
Turners work can be viewed at her website, and is well worth viewing in person, the photographs show only a limited view, these painting need to viewed within arms reach to really appreciate their splendour and technical application :http://www.margaret-turner.com
Turner, M. (Writer/Director). 2010. The Idea of Wallum. DVD. Queensland.
Noosa Regional Art Gallery, 2010. The Idea of Wallum. Brochure.