Christine Polowyj


June 19 - July 3 2009

The immediacy of Christine Polowyj’s paintings assails the senses. Introspective musings are given pictorial voice in a blaze of brilliant colour and an exceptionally clever sense for shape placement. Following on from her 2008 Melbourne show, these paintings offer further explorations into the relationship between what Polowyj calls ‘abstract psychological space’ and ‘figurative physical space’.

“I embrace the awkward, the difficult, the strange, the vibrant and the irrational. I have developed my art in tandem with a deeper understanding born from experience and a lateral approach to practicing art and life. - Christine Polowyj 2009

On a purely aesthetic level, the works are wonderfully bold and alive with possibility, but an underpinning narrative is also at play here: “My figures are amalgams of the real and the imaginary.  Initially, the recurring twin figures were used to investigate compositional aspects. I wanted to investigate the concept of duality and how childhood experiences feed into our adult personae. The conjoined figures represent literal and metaphorical inter-relationships between self and another.” An anthropomorphic component also surfaces in this body of work. For Polowyj the introduction of the animal form not only lends an element of playfulness, but provides an allegorical means to mask or accentuate certain human traits and subconscious behaviours.

Honed by years of experimentation, Polowyj can trace her passion for colour and the spontaneous gesture back to high school days in Brisbane and some inspirational encounters with an extraordinary artist: “I had a friend whose mother is Davida Allen. When visiting their home, I loved the smell of linseed oil and had the pleasure of seeing those massive art works by Davida on the walls. The energy and colour of Davida’s works made a huge impact on me. I think discovering the potency of her naive style and feeling the energy of the works gave me an insight into painting as pure expression over technical execution.”

Despite her obvious propensity for colour, Polowyj maintains that her approach to painting stems from the primary discipline of drawing: “Initially I found drawing was a freer experience; I could take a sketch book anywhere and draw for hours. I started out doing very ‘drawing-like’ paintings and it’s taken about 12 years of continuous effort to begin to feel like I have a handle on painting as a medium. I like the fact that drawing elements and techniques still manage to creep into my paintings. Interestingly though, all the works in Introspection were composed with no sketches under the painted surface and there was very little use of the brush. Mostly I painted with a silicone bowl scraper, a glue spreader and a pastry scraper, using brushes only for some detail work. I wanted this body of work to be a free experience of my expression, reminiscent of my early drawing days. The compositions unfolded ‘organically’ and resulting in unforeseen outcomes in shapes, textures and colours. The way I paint, or cook, or go about anything creative is the same. I let what I have at hand guide me rather than be dictated by what I should start with in order to get to a ‘foreseen’ outcome.  So, I really love leftover paint or a missing ingredient - it gives me a good starting point to create something new.”

There is an undeniable integrity to Polowyj’s art - the viewer needs no extraneous prompting to grasp the extent of her originality. Christine Polowyj is very much the proverbial ‘artist’s artist’ as can be evidenced in the way she approaches her canvases: “Generally, half of the painting process is about the working up of the background, which is usually about 4 or 5 layers of paint or glaze. Then the figures go on. Here it gets difficult - at this stage I have to bring something unique out in the work. I’ll do little bits at a time, walk away and return to do a bit more. Then at some point something will make sense - a shape will emerge, or a feeling or energy will become clear and that’s when it becomes fun. The works are very much a real-time compositional experience.”

UK born in 1975, Christine Polowyj now calls a tiny hamlet north of Melbourne home. Christine has a background in graphic design and the humanities. Since 1998, she has exhibited widely throughout Australia in solo and group shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Introspection is Christine’s first major solo in Queensland. 

Jacqueline Houghton

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