David Green

Weathervanes And A Fish Called Myrtle

October 16 - October 30 2021

Two very different creative approaches are evident in David Green's current exhibition.  Large, incredibly intricate, dip-pen and ink drawings, that take months to complete, are juxtaposed alongside small, gestural and collaged evocations.  ‘When I finish a big drawing, I need to clear my head, so I'll spend a period of time just having fun,' Green remarks.  ‘My work has always fluctuated between fine line and broad brushstrokes; between drawing, drawing/embroideries and painting,' he furthers.  Green relays that this is in all probability a consequence of working as a freelance textile designer in his early days.  A constant changing of styles was required to meet the various companies' niche markets.

The exhibition's twofold title, Weathervanes and A Fish Called Myrtle, cryptically acknowledges the dichotomy.  Stylistically, the large and small works display a distinct variance, but both derive inspiration from childhood recollections.  Fading, wavering memories are reimagined and reinvented to assume a new life on paper.  ‘The older I get the more I am apt to reminisce on the rhymes and lore that were part and parcel of growing up in post-war England; rites which bound together scruffy kids who daily, weekly and seasonally marked the passage of time through games.'

Conferred the title Emeritus Professor, Visual Arts, upon retirement from Charles Sturt University, Green relocated to Buderim to immerse himself in his own art practice.  He tells that after a lifetime of academe and administration, he found himself looking backwards and it was ‘logical to go to drawing'.  Contrary to most artists, Green begins each new work with an established title that has evolved through cogitation of the words and phrases that ‘litter' his ‘thinking-out-loud' note books.  A train of thought is ‘massaged' and ‘plaited' into potential imagery.  Elements are dismissed, others emphasised, new components added until the ‘bones are settled' and subsequently transferred to the drawing board.  ‘Having the title in place gives me a clearer understanding of what I am sensing to achieve, in essence, the journey is clearer,' Green discloses.

Rendered onto a large sheet of Snowdon paper with pen nib dipped in Indian ink, Portrait of a funfair fish called Myrtle is a prime example of the narratives Green has conjured from ‘memory-triggers'.  He elaborates, ‘a stray phone conversation with my sister in London opened up memories of all the fish on offer as prizes at the fair, the smell of trampled grass, the sweet smell of fairy-floss and the cacophony of stall holders and their competing voices overlaid by carousel music.'  Green describes this drawing's cornucopia of imagery: ‘There is the mythical Myrtle, proudly centre to the memory boxes of things I owned as a child - toy cars, boats, fishing floats, treasure maps, bird skulls and eggs, all crowned with a paper aeroplane and boat that my brother so proudly taught me to make.  Precious memories under a glass dome protected from water that Myrtle will never swim in.  The Victorian glass dome seemed an appropriate symbol to contain these fragments and appears in all of the larger works.'

Times past are also evinced in the drawing Let me sail let me fly in the landscapes of my mind.  Green reiterates, ‘as with Myrtle's funfair these landscapes simply go around and around'.  The recurring fish motif alludes to several fond instances.  His father, a shipwright, had made him a fish tank when he was a young boy and ever since Green has ‘intermittently kept fish'.  Memories of ‘fishing in the river Medway at East Farleigh, just down the road from Kettle Corner', also entwine.  The drawing seeks to release other stored memory shards; ‘working on a small farm during the weekend and school holidays; flags of celebration hung across the street at the end of WW2; going to school for the first time in 1945.  Of course,' he adds, 'there are again the paper aeroplanes, darts and boats all crowding to the edge to escape when there is no escaping.'

The smaller mixed media works are appropriately grouped under the heading Weathervanes.  Precision has been thoroughly abandoned in favour of an expressionism that captures childhood's sensory impressions of place and time.  Collaged metallic foils, strips of torn paper, watercolour scumbles and broader-nibbed pen scribbles evoke atmospheric encounters.  Gentle memories of sunsets - ‘that soft evening light which seems to kiss and caress the treetops and fields, a light that sends the birds to roost' motivated The last kiss goodnight and Daylight's last hurrah.  Divergent emotions imbue the works Storm brewing and The last kiss of the sun before the storm crashes the party.  ‘They pay homage to the special times with mum,' Green muses, ‘those picnics that never happened as we waited impatiently for the rain to stop.  A picnic under the dining table just wasn't the same.' Burning the stubble and That wasn't supposed to happen recall the ramifications ensuing, when at nine or ten years old, he and a couple of mates thought it would be a grand idea to light a fire in the middle of a stubble field.  The context of Espalier belies its title.  A connotation of branches trained to grow ornamentally on a lattice is quite the antithesis of Green's early fruit picking experiences.  He recalls huge old trees and heavy wooden ladders bouncing and shifting in the attempt to reach the top.  ‘How we all wanted smaller trees!'

Minutiae invites closer inspection.  Mercurial as fleeting fish, fragile as a questing paper boat or aeroplane, diverse as a funfair's attractions, Green's allegorical renderings proffer the viewer ‘memory-triggers'.  Long forgotten happenings may surface, beckoning us to rove down labyrinthian corridors and back into the more instinctive, natural realm of childhood.  ‘There are no rules, no right or wrong, only outcomes - a place where yesterday and tomorrow collide,' concludes Green.

 


JACQUELINE HOUGHTON

 


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