Karlee Rawkins

The Deer Park

October 16 - October 30 2010

To view a Karlee Rawkins' exhibition is to take part in a visual journey towards an alignment of nature, mind and art. Eschewing the socio-technological complexities that permeate day-to-day existence, Rawkins' makes manifest a metaphysical dimension. The immensely potent images reflect her deep ecological concerns and an ongoing fascination with the mythic in world cultures. A distillation of research and experience gained from her many travels to distant lands, Rawkins' paintings resonate a personal and universal truth. It was this "integrity and visual literacy"* that gained her a Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2003.

Rawkins has only recently become aware that her various bodies of work have unconsciously described particular locales: the meadow, the aviary, the forest, the orchard, the zoo and the mountain. Embracing this notion, she created The Deer Park, imagining it as a sanctuary or park-like place, "I am very interested in the occurrence of mythological locations such as arcadia, utopia, the Garden of Eden and religious worlds or states of being", muses Rawkins. "Ultimately, I hope to create totemic images - paintings that explore our relationship with nature and the strength of this sort of symbolism."

In early cultures, imagination and reality were not separated in the way that is habitual to the modern man. Instead they represented two equally valid dimensions of existence, an inner and outer world, each with its own wisdom. The fantastic creatures that populated their stories and art were attempts to explain the inexplicable and provided a vehicle whereby important human issues might be approached. A similar intent may be discerned in Rawkins' works. Ancestral forms and ancient iconography render a conceptual basis for the paintings into which she incorporates her own aesthetic.

"The Deer Park is essentially a series of paintings depicting deer/foliage combinations I have been working on," comments Rawkins. "I guess it is an extension from the Orchard series too. I have been looking at the imagery of early, nature worshipping religions, particularly the Green Man and the horned god." Her painting of King Winter, with his magnificent leaf-sprouting antlers, exemplifies this current direction. In Old World cultures, the stag was a solar emblem of rejuvenation because of the periodic regeneration of its antlers. A stag's branching horns symbolized the tree of life, the sun's rays and the cycles of nature.

Paradox intrigues Rawkins and so The Deer Park title also obliquely references the Mediaeval deer parks used by the nobility for hunting purposes. "I have been interested in the 'hunt' for awhile now, looking at predator/prey relationships and the romanticism involved with what really is quite a gory activity. It is always portrayed so beautifully in the tapestries. I find it curious that people's awe and attraction to animals can extend to hanging their heads on a wall as a trophy."

Karlee Rawkins has no conscious intent to tell, or retell stories. An interaction of medium and meaning, Rawkins' paintings are not so much allegorical, as visual demonstrations of how the human and natural worlds are intrinsically related to one another. Impulse and gestural brushwork have unleashed the Primal and potentiality reigns! Partially obscured amidst surface tensions, textured layers and an ambiguity of form and ground, Rawkins' archetypal animals suggest the mysterious continuum of human evolution and communication.

* Jan Lewis, Visual Interpretation and Semiotic Analysis of "Bitch in India" (Rawkins' prize-winning painting) 2003


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