Ann Thompson has a solo exhibiting history spanning over fifty years, her latest show at the Olsen Irwin Works on Paper Gallery ‘Variations’ has an amazing sense of vibrancy and energy that protrudes the gallery walls.
Her show follows a recent artist residency in Riems, France, where Ann, aside from learning about champagne, was able to produce a dynamic collection of works show both at the Olsen Irwin Works on Paper Gallery and also at a survey of her paintings at the Drill Hall Gallery.
Barbara Hess once described abstraction in Abstract Expression as a ‘constant searching of oneself’.
As an artist now in her 80’s, it seems an interesting idea that Ann is still searching for herself.
Her works have a wonderful sense of irreverence that can only be instilled by an artist with a particular confidence to their work.
“It is very important to know that it is always possible to make a fresh start and rediscover oneself in another place.”
The show has been well received with visitors searching her abstraction for meaning and figurative narrative.
“I can see a Fish”, “That’s a duck”, “Oh, it is people dancing” have been the constant chatter of the gallery as viewer’s eyes are led from one colourful étude to another.
I spoke to Ann to try and get a glimpse about how this force of energy continues to capture peoples imagination fifty years on .
gouache on paper
55 x 38cm
Q1) You have recently returned from an artist residency in Reims, how has this experience influenced your art?
I have worked in studios both here and overseas. Last year I rented a big studio in Reims. Some of the works I made there are in this exhibition and others, including large paintings, are in my survey exhibition at the Drill Hall in Canberra. It is very important to know that it is always possible to make a fresh start and rediscover oneself in another place.
Q2) For an artist that has a career spanning many decades your works have an amazing sense of vibrancy and energy to them, do you think this is a reflection of yourself?
Your question opens many questions for me. What is expression? What is the self? What is a career? When I am working I don’t feel any particular age. I tend to be as surprised as anyone by the outcome of the creative process.
Q3) In creating your artworks what do you believe is more important, colour or form?
To me colours have different weights. They can create a discourse amongst themselves. When I am painting it is the composition that concerns me. Colour becomes form and form becomes colour.
Q4) ‘Accapella’ in the gallery window is an example of you using mixed media. Do you believe that artistic experimentation is important to maintaining a long artistic career?
I have always made collage and sculpture and this perhaps informs the way I paint. I begin a work and after a while it begins to take its own course. I am always conscious of the differences that make up a work and it is what happens when they spark off each other.
mixed media on paper on canvas
Q5) When preparing for a series of works do you find yourself working to a routine or is the creation more organic?
I usually work in a series that continues until I feel that is played out It is a highly intuitive process and it is the same instinct that initiates and expands and then terminates the series, until it is played out. It is exactly like music.
Q6) Many people people feel there is an underlining aquatic reference to the show, how do you respond to this interpretation?
Maybe the fact that I swim every morning causes the sensations and impressions of water and under-water to enter into my paintings.
Q7) Lucian Freud once said “The longer you look and an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real”, your works are already abstract, do you believe these works have a subject matter or do you believe it is the up the responder to search for their own meaning?
This question is difficult to answer because both of these propositions seem valid and the one doesn’t necessarily cancel out the other. An abstract painting can invent its own imagery and in a figurative painting, as Freud says, the real can be abstract.
Q8) if you could offer advice to a young artists looking to establish a career in the art world, what would you give them?
I think it is a wonderful thing to have a creative life. There is a world of difference between a career and a vocation But if a young person has strong sense of vocation nothing can stop them.
gouache on paper
50 x 35cm
Ann Thomson: Variations is on view at the Works on paper gallery 40 Queen Street until the 14th of March 2015.