Robyn Sweaney

Fade to blue

November 12 - November 26 2016

Colours have an ability to influence the psyche directly. Blue has long been associated with the intellect, emotional clarity and an ensuing sense of serenity. It is perceived as the colour of the sky and the sea; their vast, unknowable expanses contributing to a reflective state of mind. Commenting on her new body of works, Robyn Sweaney smiles, “There’s a lot of blue. These paintings are about times past and the promise of a slowing down in the future; the anticipation, a longing, sunlight and shadows, clear skies and crisp, fresh mornings - a time for contemplation.” 

Sweaney is nationally recognised for her images of houses that sensitively document a way of life now in flux and her recent paintings continue this theme but with a reference to personal experiences and the various kinds of beachside dwellings that may still be encountered along the Australian coastline. “Many of the summers of my youth were spent in a simple beach cottage built from cheap materials and decorated with what we had collected from the seashore. It was a home away from home, family and friends, no TV and long days on the beach. My memories are of a time unencumbered, free and seemingly endless.”

Nowadays the Northern Rivers-based artist is able to visit beachside places in every season. “My favourite time of year is after summer when things are quieter, the light is softer and shadows deeper,” says Sweaney. For her the very presence of the often empty beach houses connotes an escape from worldly concerns and the letting go of responsibilities. Whether a simple, three-roomed ‘fibro' shack or something ‘grander’, they are acknowledged as an integral part of the Australian landscape and culture. “Glimpsed amidst the trees or set behind lawns that are a little untidier than the manicured front gardens of the suburbs, many of these houses have been painted in differing shades of blue, softened by years of harsh sunlight,” she imparts. “And invariably, the sea has inspired their names and those of the streets; Pacific Breeze, Sea of Dreams, Beachcomber, Seagull Avenue…”

“For this exhibition I have depicted beach houses, some double story but most single, standing amongst developing seaside suburbs as well as those in smaller unaffected villages. Not architecturally significant and often humble, they nevertheless reflect a distinctive aesthetic,” continues Sweaney. With this in mind, her paintings are thoughtfully constructed with meticulous attention to detail, colour interactions and compositional factors. The brushwork is hardly evident and the geometric purity of sharply focused shapes enables attention to be focused directly on the subject. Although truthful visual reports, Sweaney’s buildings always signify something beyond their unremarkable facades. “On a personal level,” she muses,  “these places trigger an emotional response, a reminiscing that is a mixture of pleasure with a hint of sadness and longing. In the stillness of winter I am thinking of summer.”

The refinement of Sweaney’s engagement with her subject matter has resulted in her winning the Allan Gamble Memorial Prize, Mosman Art Prize and the Border Art Prize this year. It has also earned her multiple representations in many of the nation’s most prestigious art awards. To name but a few: the Portia Geach Memorial Award; the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize; the Sulman Prize; the Wynne Prize for Landscape; the Fleurieu Art Prize; the Gallipoli Art Prize; the Salon des Refuses; the Paddington Art Prize; the Mosman Art Prize; the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize; the Tattersall’s Club Landscape Prize; the Adelaide Perry Drawing Prize; JADA, Jacaranda Drawing Prize; EMSLA, Still Life Award and the Country Energy Art Prize. Sweaney holds a Bachelor of Education (Arts and Crafts), State College of Victoria, Melbourne, 1978. She was the Education and Audience Development Officer, Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre, Murwillumbah from 2011 - 2015. Her works are in the following Collections: Art Bank, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Gold Coast University Hospital Collection, Grafton Regional Art Gallery, Lismore Regional Art Gallery, Tweed River Regional Gallery, Mater Hospital, Sydney, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Southern Downs Regional Art Collection, Stanthorpe.


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