Dragons & Banksias is Trudy Rice’s third solo show. It launches a body of work developed over the past year, which demonstrates Rice’s progression into a delicate and personalised aesthetic. There is a progression from Rice’s early work which featured bold colours and strong designs into fragile detail, where the colour gains its brightness through glowing transparency and richness through deep ambient layering. Dragons & Banksias is an extremely cohesive series at the pinnacle of the rapid upward trajectory of Rice’s healthily varied practice; there is no single identifier within this practise, it spans work made from a formula of experience to experimentation and is expansive and ambitious. The Dragons & Banksias series is made with a fresh delicacy of line and softness of detail throughout, which demonstrates a technical repertoire combining ink drawing and solar plate etching into a unique signature medium.
There is a symbiosis between Rice’s practice of mindful observation leading to meditative drawing and the organic printmaking process that has been adopted. Rice’s great connection and appreciation of nature shines through the natural pigment inks, printed on bright cotton rag and cleaned with vegetable oils. The plate is exposed in the same sun that the specimens are found and drawn in, and then developed in the water associated with the fluidity so prominent in Rice’s work. For me this creates a conceptual comfort that fits with and adds to the beauty and ease of the work.
The subject matter at the heart of the Dragons & Banksias series is reminiscent of an ocean side wunderkammer, however one which has been deconstructed and set free. Atypical of this genre, when habitat is recreated, the surrounds are given as much fluidity and life as the subject. By keeping a simple modern gallery finish to the work Rice has distilled this influence to reveal a pure “collection” representation of specimens without the excessive cut glass trimmings and usual nostalgia.
The knowledgeable and patiently accurate drawing from observation that is apparent in the forms, details and silhouettes is contrasted against and offset by the loose fluidity and intuitive areas of ink wash. Any trace of pinned down illustration is negated by impulsive and contradictory layers of imagery that create an infinite space and juxtapose subjects in a filing system of pure balance driven aesthetics. The shapes and borders of individual etching plates add geometric elements that bring organisation and modernity to the organic imagery and juxtaposed subjects.
Atmospheric planes of stratified images float in an elegant and carefully selected pallet of natural, bright yet earthy tones that are pared back to colours ranging from clear yellow ochres through to deep rich sepias. A comprehensive range of tones and depths are registered in the varyingly transparent ghostly images, floating and combining the solidity of the foreground images.
There are unrepeatable patterns of images from a perfected repertoire of etching plates, creating a Utopia in the haze of undefined space that these floating images inhabit.
The busyness of the contrasting layers of subjects and objects correlates to the unhurried purposefulness and productive calm required to record the fleeting vitality each of the subjects had in their moment of discovery. Pockets of time spent looking for specimens in a busy world of people presenting things to be recorded. A meditative calm shows through in the pensive, yet rapidly fluid work.
The viewer is able to form a personal relationship with each of the images, borne from Rice’s personal relationship with them, their discovery and their location. The subjects and their histories are all based in Lorne, where the artist has a familiarity and affinity with the surrounding nature and environment. This personal appreciation of such specific items and location is conveyed with such uniquely personal perspective as to become universally appealing.
Dragons & Banksias is a very significant body of work, one which solidifies many great leaps in solar plate etching and Rice’s progression as an artist. The fragility of the subjects matched to the detail of the medium meander and solidify into a strong and cohesive beauty. By transferring her enjoyment of delicate watercolour and ink Rice has created a unique printmaking practice. She has an instinctive understanding of composition, colour and layering. She uses delicate textures to create atmospheric depth that plays with surface, detail and fade. Rice’s love and empathy for the natural environment speaks directly to the viewer through these delicate and beautiful prints.
Dragons & Banksias
Kylie Blackley 2014