An island burns in the middle of an impossibly green ocean. Skies collapse towards a luminous horizon. A red-hot volcano hovers over a dark blue sea. The poetic imagery of Susan Weaver speaks to the archetypal landscape of the human imagination. These are land and oceanscapes that exist beyond the human world, reflecting places dreamed of but never seen.
Standing in front of one of Weaver’s images is a unique experience. They hold the gaze, inviting the audience to connect through their luminous hues. Their primary language is one of colour: an intense orange, hot as fire, unifies this body of work. Yet this colour is earthed through a palette that stretches from dark blues, through purple-greys and up into the hot cerulean blue of a perfect summer sky. It is difficult to balance a hue as hot as her signature reddish-orange, yet somehow Weaver manages to do so, cleverly deflecting the heat with a line of cool blue or grey.
Despite Weaver’s focus on landscape imagery, there is a sense that her primary interest is in colour, with the image acting almost as an organizing device. Viewed as abstract pieces, these works delight in the formal balancing of light and shade, form and texture, but most of all colour. The vertical format of works such as ‘Night Ocean’ and ‘Luminous’ offer supremely balanced compositions, a perfect synthesis of scale, form and colour placement. As Weaver’s highly personal style evolves, it will be interesting to see whether the images become more or less abstracted.
Weaver works with oil pastels, a notoriously tricky media. With their stubby shape and tendency to lurch towards muddy grey when overworked, this media is more often used poorly than well. Weaver works at the very edge of this media, stretching textures between intricate ocean waves and the more painterly applications of her clouds. The patient layering of strokes of oil pastel create rich hues of striking depth and lyricism. In places the surfaces are almost impasto, while in others the paper shines beneath the thinnest wash.
The hyper-romantic imagery is another striking feature of this unusually cohesive body of work. Bushfires or volcanic eruptions burst over cool oceans, islands seem to float over the horizon, portals of light open up a vertical passage between ocean and sky. Many of the images speak to a moment of transformation: fire, storm, the giant orb of a full moon blooming in the sky. There is a sense that something is about to change, some truth is about to be revealed, a final destination reached. It is possible to read them as drawing a parallel between physical landscapes and the dream-like landscapes of the mind. With their focus on the meeting of opposites- fire and water, earth and air- they speak to alchemical processes and psychic transformation. They evoke a sense of a something that is unknown yet familiar, an impossible dream that is still deeply felt to be real.
Artist, Writer and Marie Antoinette Impersonator
‘Islands and Fires’, an exhibition by Susan Weaver opens at Cooks Hill Galleries 6-8pm Friday 22 September, 2017. More information, RSVP and invite your friends here.