Rebecca Sweeney

Tropical encounters
Metro Arts, Brisbane
2 - 15 September, 1988

References to environmental concerns are made through a visual vocabulary of rich colour and expressive line in Rebecca Sweeney's work in Tropical Encounters - a two person exhibition held in conjunction with Geoff Kuchel. Thankfully, the embittered qualities that often enshroud works of the environmentally conscious are not evident in this exhibition.

Rebecca's formal art training was completed at the Townsville College of TAFE and she subsequently went on to secondary teaching, first in western Queensland, then in the north. She is currently painting and teaching in the Innisfail area which has been home for most of her life.

The exhibition is divided into two sections. One is the series of large works on paper of northern scenes already mentioned, and the other is a group of playful, but earnest works in which her pseudonym, Miss Anne-Thrope, makes comment on ''works that are considered 'great' and which have always grated ... "

The abrasive originals behind the works in the "pastiche corner" are by artists such as Van de Weyden, Breugel, McCubbin, Joseph Beuys, Duchamp and Conder. The irritations common in all the works are their overwhelmingly masculine contents and contexts. Miss Anne-Thrope's retort to all of this comes in the form of a re-making of the art-works. One rather sweet example is her interpretation of Joseph Beuy's Honey Pump. In contrast with Beuy·s enormous, impersonal piece of engineering, Miss Thrope provides viewers with a bowl of honey and a wind-up plastic bird which one is encouraged to set in motion in the honey.

Characteristic of Rebecca is the immediacy of her work. A first impression of the exhibition may be likened to a snatch of conversation with the artist. Ideas and images are drawn from a wide range of sources and approached with an openness and fearlessness that is almost child-like. In the northern scenes, real situations are recorded and explored against a fertile green backdrop of guinea-grass. Rat bait inadvertently poisons scrub turkeys and roads forming the circumferences of small pockets of dense rainforest become death traps for possums inhabiting them. A careless neighbor who has washed fertiliser from his tractor in a creek will find an unflattering beer-gutted portrait of himself in the show embellished with dead and dying freshwater shrimp.

The paintings are at once comments on conservation issues and idyllic northern views, depicted with a vitality that was constrained in earlier work. This vitality is a result of her robust, vigorous colour and brushwork which complement the vibrant tropic scenes and the desperateness of the "Cyclone Charlie" series.

The transition away from her earlier, slightly more studied self-conscious style of painting, marks Rebecca's work with a dynamism that promises to continue.