We are pleased to present Polly Wells’ first solo exhibition with 1st Avenue Gallery in Sawtell. With an extensive career in both the Fine Arts and teaching English in Melbourne, Wells relocated to the North Coast region, settling in Bellingen in 1993. Her art practice has always explored the natural world with a focus on the domestic landscape, the places we create for ourselves to live in. The importance of a psychological resting space in the world, which is necessary for human beings to flourish, is a reoccurring theme in Wells’ work. After her success late last year winning the EMSLA 2015 Regional Artist Award for ‘Still Life’ painting at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, Wells’ new exhibition continues in this genre with a series of paintings depicting everyday objects [mostly eating vessels]. These still life paintings explore the endless possibilities of quite small intimate objects and are a vehicle for contemplating the world’s strange familiarity. The exploration of light and an understanding of sophisticated colour harmonies with a finely tuned sensibility is what Wells has achieved with this rich new body of work.
Australian composer and ABC Music Show presenter Andrew Ford regularly asks composers and songwriters what their initial inspiration or starting point is in their creative practice. Is it a phrase, a snatch of tune, a lyric, an idea, a concept, an emotion? This is an interesting question for me as a visual artist. When I paint, I’m interested in the inquiry: what is it that I am so moved to capture and explore that I will spend long hours creating? As a representational artist the impetus is not always a desire to faithfully reproduce the particular objects, although I am interested in the description of the chosen things.
My aim is to contemplate what it was that initially made me want to paint this particular thing. Sometimes it is just an excuse to put a particular vermilion against a luscious crimson, or set an indigo playing against a pale blue-grey. It may be the conjunction of one shaped bowl against another. It often is the way light falls on something. Sometimes it may be something that arrests my eye when I‘m just glancing around the kitchen. Always it is an attempt to convey those moments of seeing when the world reveals itself. I want to capture those moments of intensity of seeing, those small moments of grace or illumination when the ordinary world is transformed, and our connection with nature is deeply felt. The painting process then becomes an exploration of why that particular object or set of objects or that particular glance was arresting or delighting and worth recording. During the process the formal qualities of spacial arrangement, composition, colour harmonies and light are uppermost in my mind. But then I find that I am never painting the painting I set out to do, something else emerges and the painting takes on a life of its own.
In this still-life series, the intimate, the ordinary: eating vessels, fruit and vegetables are the subject matter as they have been for by many artists over the centuries. I therefore have many influences, from the Dutch masters to the Impressionists, the radical re-envisioning by the Cubists and many contemporary artists. Most of the vessels have personal memories and are part of the landscape of my daily life. I have no qualms about aiming for beauty, in the Keatsian sense that ‘Beauty is Truth and Truth Beauty.’ I am always striving to capture the essence of a thing, and always falling short of the mark. So I get up next day and try again. The viewer may bring their own readings and attach associations to these images, and I hope they may bring some beauty into the world. It helps us to live.
Polly Wells April 2016