GW Bot: The long paddock: A 30 year survey Curator: Peter Haynes Goulburn Regional Gallery 9 October – 29 November 2010 Touring until 2013
The title of this exhibition draws attention to GW Bot's long relationship with the garden; as a walled Persian garden, an enclosed space, a metaphor for interior life. Here 'the long paddock’, common grazing land travelled in times of drought, distress or as part of a larger journey, is reconceived as a garden. This garden is a wild place, a place of renewal where life thrives unchecked, where the starved and journeying can expect to be nourished and renewed. Yet the long paddock is not a walled garden but a space which opens to new ranges, where blockages are worked through, healing is effected and possibilities for renewal are opened up. This exhibition marks a moment of reflection after deeply troubled times, an exhibition of past, passing and present murmurings of the heart.
I was moved to tears at the raw emotion of this show. Although half of the works are pre 2000 they prefigure and contextualise the concerns of the last decade. The works from this last ten years spring from a deep place, charged with a profound sense of loss. Seeing them together is an emotional experience. Many of the works visit and revisit a personal experience of bereavement and absence. While a piece like 'Passage' (2001) suggests a connection with a greater spirituality, many simply evidence a determination not to be overwhelmed by trauma. 'The long paddock' is the story of a journey, it is tempting to see the emergence of the distinctive marks the artist has called ‘glyphs’ as a search for bedrock, an unshakable, indivisible unit, a new beginning from the ground up.
The formal innovations, the use of cut-outs, colour and mark, the layering of differently weighted and textured papers emerge as simply part of the artist’s dynamic practice. Those who have followed GW Bot’s work have watched the glyphs morph from drawings and prints to oils and bronzes, represented here in 'Morphology of glyphs' (2007). The bronze glyphs of 'The Lake' (2006) dance along the entrance to the Goulburn Regional Gallery in a reference to the lake frontage of Weereewa (Lake George), itself a long paddock and place of mystery and sublimation.
Peter Haynes, the curator, has hung the show beautifully. It shows off formal resonances as motifs and colours are revealed as leitmotifs in the larger body of work. Perspectives and sightlines reveal change and continuity over the last 30 years. Signposts from past to current work are offered. Haynes knows this work well, having exhibited 'Garden of Possibilities' at the Canberra Museum and Gallery in 2003, and it shows. The emergence and development of the glyphs are tracked while 'Threnody' (1993) exemplifies the use of repeated strokes to build up a surface. In later works the strokes are smaller - almost like breaths or tracks in a landscape, tiny details of being which make up a life, while remaining structural. Premonitions of the glyphs are likewise visible in both 'Ancestral journeys' (1994) and 'Charon' (1995). We watch the transformation of the crowded early works into the sparse minimalism of the Australglyphs of the mid-noughties. Is GW Bot’s most current work, 'Earth, glyphs and sun' (2010) on the point of swinging back to that crowded bustle? What emerges from this show is a sense of an intensely creative artist sharing her experience with a coherent and distinctive voice.