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A short video by Miranda Grant capturing the 2011 exhibition opening of Sydney-based artist Sally Stokes

http://vimeo.com/20633503

Moods of the River: Bird's Gallery, Kew (Melbourne) 4-25 Feb 2017 Opening talk by Tony Scotland

On behalf of Sally, thank you all for coming. She is not one for public speaking but she wants you to know how much she appreciates the effort that each one of you have made to be here.

Special thanks to Brigita for initiating the exhibition and for her professionalism and just being a delightful human being.

Special thanks also to our hosts in Melbourne, Jenny and Roy Francis, who have been supporting Sally’s work for 30 years.

I just want to read you a very brief description of what Sally is wanting to communicate through her beautiful work.

It’s a quote from the sculptor Bronwyn Oliver:

“I am trying to create life. Not in the sense of beings, or animals, or plants, but ‘life’ in the sense of a kind of force. A presence , energy in my work that a human being can respond to on the level of soul or spirit.” 

I would like to finish with a brief statement from Sally that might help you enter the magical world that is her painting.

The river calls me, with its ever changing lights, its unpredictable streams of colour across its surface, the weather reflected in its long history in the trees the rocks and the changes they reflect. The mud flats, where the tides show their continuity and the underworld. The crab sounds,the fish jump, the birds fly and land.Splash! Another pattern to observe.Rain falls as I glide a canoe, a pattern of dots. Clouds cover the sun, water changes colour. A boat that passed ten minutes before leaves a track on the water.

Middens line the foreshore: people have lived and loved and died in this area for generations and generations. The patterns: in the water, in the varied shaped hills that line this river, the sky, in the trees and rocks within the hills. The textures of different trees, angophoras, banksias and rocks and grasses, and the ever moving skies all move me inside the experience and then beyond.

 

SALLY STOKES by Gina Fairley

A Sense of Place 10 – 21 November 2015

Looking at these new canvases by Sally Stokes I am reminded of the words by the great landscape painter John Constable: ‘We see nothing till we truly understand it.’

A place is never described by location alone. Sally Stokes understands this. Her paintings seemingly bristle with raw honesty; each gesture and daub of colour uncannily balanced and alive, and yet they dwell in a place beyond locations – ‘a place beyond me’, says Sally.

Despite the intensity of their chroma, these are slow paintings. Time itself becomes an abstraction in their making. ‘I do hundreds of drawings as I ebb my way in; memories that return months later in a dream like state … sitting with them, being distracted, pulled back in … sitting again; it’s like they exist in a third place.’

Sally will spend months on a painting; years on a show. It is a journey demanding of both connection and solace; the quick gesture and the slow memory. As the viewer we get caught in their carnival of colour but like the outback itself that overwhelms with its first impression, these paintings permeate you if you let them, lulled by the echoes of our own connections – of ‘cappuccino waterholes’ and violet watery shadows.

In a world that is over-aestheticised and racing ever-faster, ever-broader, there is a kind of pushback and pause that these paintings offer. To relegate them simply as an attempt to fit within a mythical lineage of Australian landscape painting would be a misrepresentation.

Rather, Sally speaks of ‘an age of worn out Australia mixed with new growth…surprising juxtapositions that keep changing just as you think you’ve understood them; a joy of brief connection, brief anxiety, brief love, brief despair … it’s such a tantalising knowledge, never a full picture, not a representation, but a sense of connection to this ever revealing, ever unknowable world.’

This sense of place she describes lies beyond geography, and only in that understanding do we start ‘to see’, as Constable suggests, a human sentiment in sync with the spiritual gravitas of the Australian landscape. These paintings are lived.

- Gina Fairley (National Visual Arts Journalist, ArtsHub)

 

Rod Berry's talk at Sally Stokes Opening: "Journey to the Interior"

 

It is a great thrill to be here. I have enjoyed meeting some of you today, and one thing which has stood out with everyone I have spoken to, is just how much regard and affection we all have for Sally’s work. Sally – there is a lot of love in the room! I am sure any one of us would have a lot of great things to say about Sally and her work, but I am delighted to be the one to speak on this occasion. I want to base some of my comments about Sally’s work today around the notion of serendipity. Serendipity is the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. In simple terms, serendipity is about wonderful co-incidence. Serendipity started my journey with Sally and her work. Quite by chance I wandered off the street into this gallery during the Lures of Landscapes exhibition in 2012, and Sally’s work immediately resonated with me. I felt mesmerised by the colour, the daring, the vitality, the shapes, the juxtapositions, and the energy. I became an immediate fan. As I chatted with Tony Scotland at the Lures exhibition, the sense of serendipity grew, as it turned out that Sally and I shared a common connection in the late Valerie Olsen. Valerie taught me to paint at Hornsby TAFE 20 years earlier. Remarkably, Sally and Tony had been close friends of Valerie before Valerie’s passing, and the paintings I was so enjoying had been painted in Valerie’s old studio. Talk about 6 degrees of separation! My office in Chatswood is now filled with Sally’s work. I cannot convey just what a thrill it is everyday to walk into my reception area, or to take a client into a conference room, and to have Sally’s work bringing such positive energy to the situation. Serendipity is a word I would also use to describe Sally’s artwork itself. Sally’s paintings are full of wondrous co-incidences, delightful chance alignments, as she observes shapes and colours in nature. She juxtaposes geological formations millions of years old with ephemeral things such as clouds and birds and bushes. We witness deep ochres set against rich blue skies. Sally is an optimist, and this is reflected in her choice of palette. There is a delight and joy in Sally’s work, as she celebrates the wonder of our ancient land. By noticing serendipity in Sally’s work, I don’t mean to suggest for one moment that she is a casual observer of what she is painting. Sally’s artworks are the result of deep observation and reflection of the Australian landscape. To produce the artworks we see today, Sally travelled approximately 24,000km. She took about 10,000 photos, and made innumerable sketches. Sally travelled extensively to remote and sacred places many of us will never visit, especially in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. We are very lucky that Sally has shared these postcards of Australia’s interior with us. But these paintings are more than mere records of what Sally saw; they also represent Sally’s emotional response with these places. I wonder the extent to which, for Sally, the Journey to the Interior represents not only a journey into Australia’s interior, but a journey of personal reflection – into her own spiritual interior. What I see in the works we are viewing today is the outpouring of deep meditation, Sally having absorbed and internalised the energy and sacredness of the landscape. Sally has a quiet humility about her, but she has become a very powerful communicator of the awe that she feels in nature. One motif I have noticed in her more recent work is the arrival of birds. Are they part of the landscape? Or do they represent Sally and by extension us, as we fly over the landscape, experiencing great freedom as we survey the wondrous land which lies before us? Sally has done us a great favour by sharing with us her Journey to the Interior. I am delighted to officially open her exhibition. 

 

Reflections by Elizabeth Fortescue  Sally Stokes: Journey to the Interior: 2014

 

During the last three winters, Sally Stokes undertook journeys to more than a dozen of Australia’s most visually stunning and remote locations. In Western Australia, Stokes witnessed British artist Antony Gormley’s uncanny sculptures stalking across the white salt vastness of Lake Ballard. She was captivated by the stripy sandstone domes at Purnululu, and by the Tunnel Creek cave system which lies beneath the Napier Range. She visited the extraordinary stepped waterfall of Bell Gorge in the Kimberley, and the Wolfe Creek Crater whose mystical appearance gave rise to indigenous dreaming stories. In the Northern Territory, Stokes visited the West Macdonnells near Ormiston. She saw the indigenous rock engravings of Ndhala Gorge and the rockpools of Hancock Gorge in Karijini National Park. At Gunlom Falls in Kakadu National Park, she stood on the rocks above the area’s famous 30-metre waterfall. There were other locations, as well. Together, they provided a deep well of inspiration which Stokes carried back to her studio in Dural, northwest of Sydney. With the visual impact of her travels fresh in her mind, and with photographs and sketchbooks as aides memoires, Stokes slowly and meditatively created the large suite of paintings from which this exhibition has been selected. It is so easy to find joy, spirituality and the love of life in all of Stokes’ paintings. They exhale the sheer delight of the artist as she allows her extraordinary outback journey to permeate her entire being and to be reborn in these remarkable paintings which speak so eloquently of a life devoted to art. These paintings are not careful renderings of the Australian scenery — they are a visceral and heartfelt response in colour, line and texture to the never-ending gravity of the outback. Elizabeth Fortescue, Daily Telegraph visual arts writer, Australian correspondent for The Art Newspaper, www.artwriter.com.au

 

 

Elisabeth Cummings talk at Sally Stokes Opening: "It’s all about the colour"

 

It is a great pleasure to walk into this space and experience the vibrancy of Sally’s paintings. “It’s all about the colour”- Sally sees colour in a unique way in the landscapes she loves. She is a risk taker with colour- I delighted in the surprises- often she will juxtapose a jangle of colours against the open and quieter spaces. She finds the links between the large forms and the calligraphy that interrupts them. The paintings have many moods- they can be playful and light hearted- they can be more sombre and reflective. They are subtle and raw at the same time and each painting deserves one’s full attention. Fairweather said “Painting to me is quiet a mystery- I just work at it” and “Painting to me is something of a tightrope act, it is between representation and the other thing- whatever that is.” I’m sure Sally would agree with him. As Tony suggests- painting is a form of meditation and Sally has spent time in the landscapes that engage her meditating, sometimes through the many drawings she does and then again alone in the studio immersing herself in the translations of what she has seen. It is 10 years since Sally last showed in a gallery. She has been drawing and painting steadily over these 10 years and the paintings shown here are just a fraction of what she has produced. Thank you Tony for making this happen. May there be many more shows. These paintings lift the spirits. They are alive. Thank you Sally.