Amanda is a visual artist, researcher, and writer, who is curious about the world we live in and how we communicate about places and geographies.
She has a Master of Fine Arts, teaches visual arts at the Waikato Institute of Technology, works for an international art journal as an Associate Editor, and has been painting for over twenty years.
Here, Amanda reflects on her recent art practice and the place of patience in her work. These new paintings make up a new exhibition, “Local Geographies,” which is showing at Ramp Gallery from 15 September, 2022. Visit her website at www.amandawatson.com and her artist profile on Instagram to find out more about Amanda’s work.
Painting outside in areas of native forest requires a fair amount of planning and watching the weather forecast before beginning a day of work. It’s very much worth it though because working in the bush is pretty amazing among manuka and puriri, with friendly fantails and the whooshing wings of kereru.
Recently, I have developed a way of working that engages places in the making of the paintings. It’s a creative process that also requires a good dose of patience. It involves taking a raw piece of canvas and wrapping surfaces of the land with it, and then painting on it while in that bunched-up position. The resulting paintings show the marks of my encounters with rough bark, branches, and limbs, and hard-to-reach places. They also show the way the canvas was positioned around things where watery ink has flowed down folds and valleys of canvas and stained a path during its traverse.
Part of my process of painting is to respond to things as they occur: things like wind gusts, rain, or the thickening of paint as the temperature turns cold. These things divert my planned course of action and offer gifts of surprise as they contribute to the way the paintings will be made that day. Although these unexpected things make it difficult to work, I have come to embrace them because they create room for new insights about the places themselves. Sometimes, the visual outcomes are truly wonderful.
After each session of painting, new marks and shapes appear on the canvas where ink and paint blend with or resist each other, or where textures of trees or vines have been imprinted. I regularly stand back and look at the canvas and become curious about what the painting needs. My imagination is engaged as I picture the end result and wonder about how I could make it happen. It might need a milky pink colour applied in a certain area or a perhaps paint-soaked brush being dragged across the canvas. But before I make that decision, I sometimes need to slow down and wait for paint to dry. The colour can change as it soaks in, or the edges might soften in a beautiful way. I need to wait to look at it from different angles, and I need to wait for ideas to percolate. That process of waiting is uncomfortable and unknown. It’s a moment in which I don’t have the answers yet, only questions; often, I want to cut that time short and move ahead.
But that distillation process of watching and waiting is when the painting seems to unfold. It’s when I give space to let God speak and when new things become noticeable. When I’m painting among moss-laden branches that have fallen to the ground and I’m pressing the canvas around the curves and dips, if, at these times, I remain attentive and expectant to what’s around me, then I may begin to understand something new that God is showing me and respond to that. Perhaps I can use this “in-between time” as a place to listen and hope for the whisper of a loving God who is sustaining all things with his beauty and presence. What a beautiful gift! What a loving gesture.
This painting is part of a body of work that I have been making in places near Te Mata and Whaingaroa, and at Ruapuke and Wainui over the last twelve months. They explore these places and record my encounters with them in this tactile and physical way.
The exhibition of these new works is called “Local Geographies” and opens at 4pm on Thursday, 15 September, 2022 at Ramp Gallery, 111 Collingwood Street, Kirikiriroa, Hamilton, and all are welcome to come. The exhibition will continue until 7 October; please check the website for the gallery’s opening hours: https://rampgallery.co.nz/exhibitions/local-geographies/