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In Dreams, Carl Jung makes reference to a 'shapeless life-mass' which is perhaps, in the case of an artist, the sum of experience: both sensory and psychic. This is reminiscent of the idea of alchemical chaos, and he comments on the need for creative change in order to transform the mass. He also makes reference to animal impulses as part of the process of creative change:
During this process one is "bitten" by animals; in other words, we have to expose ourselves to the animal impulses of the unconscious without identifying them and without "running away ... 1
In Journeys into unfamiliar territory, both the artist and the viewer of this work are bitten by the animal. The tension resulting from Anne Lord's encounter with the animal is put to work in the paintings, prints and drawings she has produced particularly since 1985. The animal works in the visual sense as part of her discourse and the power of the images in the paintings and prints is very much reliant on the artist's ability to avoid identifying unconscious impulses, a capacity that is evidenced by Anne's reticence in discussing the content of her work.
The exhibition includes large oil paintings, suites of woodblock prints, watercolours, monotypes and drawings. As with almost all of her earlier work, the landscape of western Queensland features as raw material, the artist's familiarity with that landscape being an operative factor, and secondary to this is a sense of empathy with the natural forces that alternately shape and destroy the land. The everyday occurrence becomes an element of daydreams that are described and explored. The taciturn nature of the inhabitants of the west is echoed in the diminished form in the pictures and alludes to a shared sense of understanding and a reluctance to relive or revive pain and conflict. Significantly, the work has evolved from a journey into what is physically for Anne, 'unfamiliar territory', the area near Mt.lsa.
The primary impact of western Queensland is one of isolation, an issue that is paralleled on a larger scale by the collective psychological isolation that is a part of present-day life.
The central concerns of Anne Lord's work in Journeys into unfamiliar territory are change and healing. The focus in the work is on the positive aspect of change, rather than the initial conflict, and the power of the work and its acute and intelligent nature derives from that focus. The processes and forces of nature act as vehicles for the artist's personal statement, embodying her fatalistic acceptance of the demands of individuation.
While correlations are apparent between the individual's experience of isolation and the isolating aspect of the landscape featured, the function of the landscape in this work is by no means narrative. This is achieved through the development of the visual language, illusion is hinted at in the structures that inhabit the work, but it is contrasted and destroyed by the active role of the picture plane and the marks used upon it. To do this, Anne allows both thick white paint and raw canvas, combined with painterly marks to destroy any illusory hints. She acknowledges the work of Jackson Pollock and the action painters' manipulation of expressive line and remarks on the visual energy that varies with line applied at differing rates.
The visually indeterminate nature of Anne's work, the washed out colour, soft tones and broken line, relates quite directly to the artist's own reticence. As with the laconic occupants of the area, there is no need to illustrate harshness and pain, these being shared experiences, rather, the silence and the indefinite qualities produce a tempering effect, which acknowledges the inevitability of those elements and suggests an acceptance of them. The imagery in the work is consistent with gradual variations from one work to the next. This careful, considered technique leaves the viewer with resounding echoes that have their basis in what I would suggest is the collective subconscious.
The Broken Doorway, a monotype, suggests an impediment to the passage of change and references could, in a broader and more fundamental way, be made to the birth passage, as one looks at moving from a wide to a narrow space. The monotypes provide a foil for the larger and strongly coloured oils which tend to evidence more experimentation.
In the large oils some compositional devices suggest groins, passages and house-shapes. The richness of the paintings in particular invites individual scrutiny. The painting entitled Animal, harbours a dog-image, which in Greek mythology represents healing in the form of Asclepius and has been known to symbolise loyalty, fidelity and instinctual forces. The lake in Lake and Tent is made up of whip-like marks, which flick and move across the surface of the canvas creating a lively pattern of movement, a seething surface that separates the fertile, productive waters from the painterly activity above. The otherwise busily solid wall at the top is broken by a lighter narrow passage in which it is possible to detect a distant background, negated by the flattening effect of two diagonal lines that hold back the chaotic pattern from the water below. Fecund would most accurately describe the potential of the paintings.
The disparity of scale when considering the wood engravings in relation to the oils suggests the swing of the pendulum of change, however the prints carry similar information in terms of subject matter, mark-making, allusion and composition.
Journey, a suite of engravings that have also been bound as an artist's book, present the human emotions within the context of the isolation caused by the scale of the land and by the elements. The text accompanying them makes this relationship apparent. Its brevity is fitting, the text remaining separate though complementing the imagery and concepts.
Journeys into unfamiliar territory marks a turning point in the work of an artist whose work has been consistently provocative. The more overt nature of this new work from Anne Lord-stronger colour, change in scale and its encompassing imagery, are all significant changes in this exhibition.
1. C. G. Jung. Dreams p. 219-220