Five years after her first solo exhibition at Central Stories, Lake Hawea artist Robyn Bardas has returned with a collection of more than 20 works that examine the Central Otago landscape.
Bardas’s “Red. Tussock. Line” exhibition develops the play with perspectives, horizon lines and vanishing points that she explored in her 2016 exhibition, “Locate. Horizon. Line”.
“You get drawn into the details and then pushed away to experience the vastness .. I enjoy playing with the understanding of perspective, the very large and the tiny, the contrasts. There is something very satisfying about that … That is what art is supposed to do, touch some part of your brain that doesn’t get worked,” she said.
Formerly from Melbourne, Bardas made Lake Hawea her permanent base in 1997, after she developed an immediate and strong connection with the land while on a skiing holiday.
She explores the constantly changing perspectives of the landscape using videos, digital photography and gouache paint to produce pieces up to 1.2m long.
“Red. Tussock. Line” was created over 18 months, after she attended an artist’s residency at the Red Tussock Science Reserve at Pukerau, near Gore, in the autumn of 2020.
“It is an amazing space … It is whispery quiet, undulating, an ecosystem of mosses, flaxes, insects. We dozed in there,” she said.
“It is just a beautiful thing to respond in the environment, without having to frantically make work, just to imbibe it,” she said of her time in the reserve.
Bardas created her works as a homage to the survival of the red tussock ecosystem in a farmed landscape that has been denuded of forest.
“Primarily it is about the spirit of the place itself, the spirit of different times, all in one place. We are now in an industrial, post-colonial landscape, surrounded by farms .. but we know it wasn’t always farmed and it was once wetland, a living, alive place, full of people and nature. I want to talk to the spirit of the past and also to the future, what might happen.
“There’s another Red Tussock Reserve near Manapouri. I would like to go there too,” she said.
Bardas took a lot of video while at the scientific reserve and then went home to Hawea to absorb and translate the experience into paintings.
From the videos, she extracted stills, and then stitched them together using digital programmes Premier Pro and Photoshop.
The images were printed in Dunedin on velvety-soft, high-quality, matt finish Epsom paper – 300 grams, 100% cotton – and then she took to them with her fingers and paintbrushes.
“The paper is highly absorbent, so you do have to be in your Zen, present moment. I pre-mix all my colours so the colours are all good. It is quite a meditative process,” she said.
“Ultimately, I really love the physicality of painting. I paint a lot with my fingers. I love the visceral feeling of it,” she said.
Bardas experimented with new paints for this particular series of works, giving her an additional level of satisfaction in colour-matching, another process she particularly enjoys.
landscape artist, influenced by classical landscapes, and also enjoys portraiture.
She completed her bachelor of fine arts degree from Melbourne’s RMIT in 1989 and her masters degree in fine arts from Otago Polytechnic in 2016, where she won the Dean’s drawing prize.
Over the last five years, she has exhibited many times, including at the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore, the Forrester Gallery in Oamaru, the Millennium Public Art Gallery in Blenheim and the Ashburton Public Art Gallery.
“Red. Tussock. Line”opened at Central Stories, Alexandra, on Friday and runs until January 2.