University of Tasmania
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The sensation of place: translating the experimental sensation of a place through painting

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posted on 2023-05-27, 11:44 authored by Holt, AJ
The aim of this project was to paint the complexities of 'felt' moments of experiencing place on Bruny Island, Tasmania, and in doing so, create a visual realisation of the subjective, experiential and conceptual awareness of the artist in relation to the matter and phenomena of the surrounding environment. The investigation was based on the phenomenological model that posits that our understanding of place arises through inter-subjective encounters: the connections, meaning and associations we make in our mind's eye to what we see. This project explores the formal aesthetic and conceptual translations of atmospherics and movement (light, time, mark) because these aspects most readily provide scope for a painterly inquiry into a subjective and intrinsic experience of place. Through immersive encounters and extensive periods painting on location, the project was driven by the recognition of the intrinsic feeling of place on Bruny Island ‚Äö- the sense of an 'absence' and 'presence' in the landscape. In this context, the project not only draws on immediate experience but it also brings to bear a sense of past events that 'live on' in the ethereal feeling that emanates from the location. Painting on site from direct observation collates the nature of lived experience with the performative and reflective processes involved in making an image. The exegesis investigates how intuitive knowledge and the effects of material artefacts on the senses contribute to an understanding of the nature of experience. Furthermore, the social and cultural constructs that might pre-empt these underlying feelings intrinsic to Bruny are examined: specifically, Tasmania's dark colonial legacy and indigenous culture that is also central to Bruny Island's history. The methods of a number of artists (in particular David Hockney, Claude Monet, Patrick Grieve and Neridah Stockley) for whom immersion is an essential part of the process in developing paintings that express a deeply-felt connection to place, are identified and explored. Emily Kame Kngwarreye's painting techniques are also informative in conveying aspects of an experience of place that may be invisible to the eye, yet nonetheless intrinsically felt, and expressed through a painterly language that transcends cultural boundaries. In this way the project proposes that painting has the potential to be an effective agency to transcribe sensations of what is both seen and felt. The original contribution, as encapsulated in the artwork and the exegesis, is a body of work that evidences the layers of complexity that contribute to the experience of place. In this, the project adds to the understanding of human relations to place, specifically in relation to painting and a perception and knowledge of Bruny Island. The research exhibition provides a distinct visual interpretation of the site, which contributes to the evolving field of interpretative Tasmanian landscape painting.


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