Steve Tyerman

Where the Ocean Meets the Land

July 18 to August 1 2020

Characterised by an intense involvement in the materiality of paint, Steve Tyerman's works are the outcome of an intimate engagement with the environment. His art however, communicates a visual experience beyond the strictures of traditional landscape painting. Form, space, colour and light become simultaneously resolved in the immediacy of the palette knife gesture.

‘I think the more you know a place, the more it gives up to you creatively,' Steve imparts. Although his recent paintings have been inspired by times spent in the northern NSW coastal region, he stresses that they are not just references to beach scenes. The title of the exhibition, Where the Ocean Meets the Land, may signify a ‘coastal' area but it also alludes to a poetic linking of land and sea. Steve's paintings encourage the viewer to extend perception beyond manifested form and discover a ‘oneness' within the ebb and flow of nature's rhythms.

‘For a long while my work has really been about trying to get closer to how I see the world around me and to express something of the depths of my experiences,' reveals Steve. ‘We have become excessively accustomed to discerning life through digital images. They are so prolific and prevalent that they inform notions of what reality is, but, digital imagery is the furthest thing from reality! We don't in fact comprehend the world from the single-point perspective of a cropped snapshot, frozen in time. Surrounded by space we move through the world, looking up and down, adjusting focus for near and far. Peripheral vision catches movements both fast and slow. And, this complex, multifaceted vision is just a part of the whole story. All of our senses are involved. Touch, smell, sound and even taste contribute to an immersive experience of place. I would like my paintings to express that reality. But how does one achieve such with paint on a flat surface?'

‘Well, I don't know,' Steve continues, ‘but the idea is to build in more of the visual intricacies, to incorporate multiple viewpoints. The attempt to do so involves the illusion of great distance and close-up detail being juxtaposed side by side. I want to make pictures that bring all the elements together, to make my visual and emotional encounters palpable on the canvas surface.'

The painting, There Were Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things, exemplifies this endeavour. Several levels of representation and meaning are encompassed at once. Roots of a pandanus surreally overspread the grassy hilltop of an isthmus. Emanating from the pandanus, a branch circles out around the distant shoreline and up to the foreground. There, its cluster of jagged leaves dangles aside native banksia and pig-face succulents of an incongruously similar size. A rainbow lorikeet feeding on nectar fulfils Steve's visual understanding of symbiotic ecosystems.

A sense of wholeness and integration again imbues The Ocean Beckoned picture. Beyond a miscellany of brightly coloured flowers, the eye is directed along the headland and into the infinite. Ocean and sky fuse in a palette knife flourish. Across the elongated Rhythm and Blues canvas stretches a latticed tangle of pandanus branches. Rather than a coastal vista, this work plays with the cadence of organic shapes and tactile nuances. ‘I find it interesting how the eye will read slabs of abstract, dark-coloured paint as branches, and a swathe of white as ocean,' Steve remarks.

The masterly There Are Two Paths You Can Go By has a literal and metaphysical ambience. We contemplate the choice at the juncture of steps descending down to a meeting of land and sea. Either way, the passage is dappled in streaming light and deep shadow. Hidden Currents is a remarkable expression of the ocean's raw energy. The confident execution of each palette knife gesture echoes the surging forces of nature. Into a rocky cove waves pound, eddy in pools and recede only to crash again over the shore. The work is also a highly resolved composition of shape and colour as the distant band of sandy beach connects with the tiniest glimpse of sky. It is a seascape rendered with both expansive and introspective sensibility. ‘But ultimately', Steve reflects, ‘my aim is to create a compelling visual image in and of itself - one that exists independently of subject.'


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