Barb Henderson - 'From a Wild Garden'

Wednesday 7 August - Sunday 1 September 2019

“A recent conversation between my four year old grandchildren, Leo and Pippin.
Leo…. When I grow up I am going to have a farm, and I’ll have sheep, and Daddy will mow the lawn, and I’ll grow veggies.
Pippy replies…..Well don’t have your farm near a rabbit hole
Pippy…..Because rabbits eat veggies 
Oh says Leo.

The children are gone now and their voices still hang in the air. This morning, the harsh screeches of a white cockatoo can be heard. He is far up in the towering branches and his screeches blot out the Mozart concerto playing where I am painting. Six paintings are attached to the outside of my studio wall. What am I painting, what informs the abstract shapes and colours in the works? Maybe it’s the images of the things in the garden…..collected objects, children’s artistic remnants of coloured chalk mud pies, the roaring fire the children cooked pancakes on, the veggies growing in the garden among the weeds, the skinks running here and there, the abundant birds in the towering trees, the rosellas in the bird bath. Or maybe it’s the memories of my Grandmother’s house from long ago; memories of hunting for treasure in the sleep out or the excitement of opening a chest full of old dresses and materials stored under the bed.

I work on multiple works at once, often turning the paintings around to view them from a different aspect. This is an attempt to still my thinking. As I move from one painting to another I’m less likely to get stuck or think too much about any one work. I have to be prepared to lose what I like in a painting and paint over some little gems in an attempt to take the work to a new level and eventually achieve a resolution. I love it when unexpected treasures slip into a work. These can accidentally appear as if by chance.

Beauty is not enough. There must be something more, a structure. You must commit yourself, and risk everything, sacrifice the good, and go through a process of recognition, until something better is created, built upon the ruins of the original idea. The right structure slowly emerges from the picture. Per Kirkeby

At the end of a session, I take the paintings into my studio and turn their faces to the wall. They and I both need a break from each other. We need space. I don’t allow myself to look at them for at least 24 hours, after which I’m usually ready to view my paintings with fresh eyes. At other times, I may need to put a painting away for months or even years before I am ready to work on it again. There is much magic around completing a work. Sometimes the completion comes quite by accident and I get a surprise. I need to be alert because if I am not careful, it may complete itself and I miss the boat and lose it again.

When I’ve successfully resolved a painting, I love to look at it: then I want to share it. I like to hear the responses