ZEN REEF - EXHIBITION SERIES
RATIONALE: The Great Barrier Reef is part of our East Australian Coast and apart from being one of the Wonders of the World, it is also one of the largest Marine Reef Eco-systems in the world. The Great Barrier Reef is home to a vast variety of species and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Water: one of the most healing agents in the world. A gift from God, Mother Earth, Gaia, the Universe.... whatever you believe, the healing effects of being in our Oceans is second to none. Healing - Mentally, Emotionally, Spiritually and yes, sometimes physically.
Personally: I have loved the Reef since the first time my parents took me to see it back in the 80's. We moved up from Sydney in 1988. Soon settling in under the gaze of the famous "Castle Hill" ...
Mum and Dad began to take our families on day trips to the Great Barrier Reef.
We would travel out on the 3 hour journey with 'Pure Pleasure Cruises' to the pontoon out at Kelso Reef, where we would snorkel all day until we were exhausted, then enjoy a buffet 'all-you-can-eat' seafood, cold meats and salad. Mum used to say she mainly went for the buffet, but I know she enjoyed the reef too.
Growing up, we would also spend holidays on Magnetic Island, and a fond memory of mine was that every year, we were allowed to select a mini sculpture of an animal made from sea-shells to take home. I LOVED my little collection of shell-animals.
Reaching adulthood - I moved away from the years 2002 - 2015.... During this time, I was inland, and away from the Ocean... I would often drive 3 hours to the Caboolture coast with my kids "just" to taste the ocean... it wasn't the Reef, which was so beloved to me - it was rough and untamed, but still full of power and healing, cleansing waters.
2015 - I returned home. To my family, to a new job, new relationship, and back to the Reef!
I married my "fisherman" husband in 2020, during the COVID outbreak... he has gotten me back out to the Reef more than ever in my life. And he introduced me to Scuba Diving - a whole new world that I used
to be scared of; but no longer. It was like I was born to do this.... Dive and Paint!
We soon got Daniel into Scuba Diving - my son, who wants to be a Marine Biologist, and eventually my husband tried it on our Honeymoon.
And so - my passion for the Great Barrier Reef has grown. I am learning to better equip myself and gain the skills, techniques and knowledge to take better underwater photos and video. I ADORE making underwater videos.... You can see my playlists of Dive Trips on my YouTube channel.
ART EXHIBITION CONTEXT
In 2020, I began to depict my great love for the Reef. I have spent most of my years painting Pet Portraits; cats, dogs, birds and horses. It was only in the past several years that I have grown interested in landscapes and in particular, finally painting my passion for the Reef.
Some of my works are quick, palette knife acrylic representations - quick strokes that show mainly 'suggestions' of figurative creatures. Others of my works are Oils on Canvas and I have spent more time on detail.
Coinciding with these works, I have been on deeper explorations of my beliefs and spirituality - and so, I have decided to tie the two together. I still believe in God, but this has expanded further now and I that special love for the ocean is being realised in a spiritual sense. The Ocean and Mother nature, is full of perfect symmetry... everywhere you look, you can see the creative fingerprints of 'consciousness'. Source Power, God, Higher Collective Consciousness, whatever you want to call it - that signature is clear as day wherever you look in the natural world. To appreciate what we have been given, we need to connect on a deeper level.... and there's no better way to connect, then through full immersion in water.....
I was doing my Advanced Scuba course - back in the Christmas holidays of 2020, and my instructor, who is a good friend, returned just above to the boat to retrieve her camera. This was the first time I was left alone on Scuba - I hovered in front on a coral, housing an anemone with a clown fish family. I began to meditate, eyes open, breathing deeply and slowly... I relished the here and now - where I was - I observed - mindful and thankful of everything. The clown fish parents, then brought out their baby, coming right up to my mask as if to bravely tell me I was in their territory - or to check me out seeing as I was so still. It was a magical moment for me. Every Dive for me now is an act of wonder, of being very present - of meditation - soaking in the essence of those healing waters around me.
Oils on Canvas
This painting was part of my exploration of early Landscape. I didn't want to paint traditionally. I loved the fish-eye lens 'look' that I saw emerging in many underwater photographers works. I wanted to encompass the fresh warmth and beauty of what Townsville means to me - to capture the essence of how I feel about the town I grew up in.
Through my Expressionist approach, I used lots of pastels and warm tropical combinations of colours to depict that feeling of 'The Tropics'. Castle-View Colours, the title; denotes that Townsville's Iconic 'Castle Hill' looks over the city, reflecting the colours, like a tropical rainbow, sprawled out across the harbour. I added the Frangipani plant on the right side as this tree is also very common in this region; the Strand hosting many of these trees. This painting is very textural and painting with both brushwork and also palette knife techniques.
Acrylic on Canvas
As a secondary high Visual Arts teacher, I often see a lot of wasted paint from my students and I like to lead by example. Whether I take in my own canvas or recycle a rejected piece - I like to produce work that uses up the wasted paint. Students have begun looking forward to seeing what unfolds from this practise. As the Reef Guardian teacher at my school, I also promote recycling over wastage and encourage my students to use up old paint in palette's before they get out fresh paints.
This acrylic painting came from this practise. The chunkiness of the coral was painted on with palette knife from already hardened up paints. The background blue is a layer of ink, to give that fresh washed out look, then layering old recycled paints over the top to create the intention of corals, fish and splashes. This was quite a fast painting and relatively rough and expressionistic compared to many of my regular pieces. This is part of a process of my experimentation as I develop my style. (My 'Production' style is normally thinner layers of delicately applied paints and high level details.) My process of experimentation involves lots of loosening up and quick paint work.
The reflections behind Diving in are simply this; a reflection of nature. The birds 'fishing' for their survival, are just as big a part of the eco-system as the lives below. The birds appear to be having fun in this act and so I am showing the emotion of 'joy' in this painting.
Acrylics on recycled Canvas
This painting is another of my recycled paint and canvas pieces from the school. This canvas was a recycled one that had been used several times and was unwanted and overlooked. I adopted this canvas as I liked the textures that came through from the layers underneath, showing that this canvas had a 'story to tell'. This painting is my roughest, loosest painting to date and I love the freshness of this style and technique. Again, painted with both palette knife and brush, this painting shows the essence of the reef as the sun sets.
While the colours above are a brilliant reflection of the setting sun in the evening sky, underneath, you see the deepening colours of the waters after dark. Down the bottom in the darkness, two coral trout can be seen resting beside the bommie. It is typical at depth for colours to fade (something I have learnt from Diving)... so the brilliant reds of the coral trout, fades to that blue-green-grey.... showing what can be seen if you were actually down there with them, hiding from the fishing boat top-side.
This painting is also the first painting that I have depicted our own Reef Boat, 'The Snizen'.
Acrylic on Canvas
This is my final recycled canvas and paint artwork from 2020. It's only a small painting and not one of my favourite pieces. It is typical to see fish following along a turtle to feed from the algae growing on their shells, thus the title. This painting depicts a young Green Sea Turtle.
Oils on Canvas
My first painting completed in 2021. This painting took me a very long time (over a year) and the photograph here just doesn't do it justice. This is oils on canvas on quite a large painting and depicts a typical reef schooling fish, Fusiliers schooling in a spiral. It also shows the odd Moon Wrasse traveling in the other direction.
This painting was realised in the height of my fresh 'awakening', and so I have given it a meditative, mandala, symmetry appearance. The fish give off a very 'zen' vibe, as they gently swirl and float towards the surface.
The appearance of the one Moon Wrasse is representative of individuals and how we should swim against the current of society at times. Don't be 'sheep' as such.... think for ourselves. Don't be afraid to be 'individual' and to let your colours and light shine!
I am very happy with how this piece turned out.
Oils on Canvas
I am currently in the middle of Manta Mantra. This is the largest painting in my series so far and will depict Manta Rays gently circling a bommie (cleaning station).
I believe that the grace and poise of the Manta Ray, beautifully gliding through the oceans, can teach us so much about the art of being relaxed and meditative in life.
These images show my journal pages as I work through this project. My brainstorming on placement, my research on Manta symbolism. And my experimental pieces to work out colours and placement.
I have also decided to deeply vlog my latest piece, so those interested in deeply following this can do so. You can follow the playlist for my vlog on my YouTube channel.
Experimental thumbnail paintings in journal to help me with colour preparation.
Considerations of ocean waters - and possibility of combining 'stars' into the waters, to bring a more ethereal feel into the painting.
I will be adding to this BLOG as I finish each piece of art for the "Zen Oceans" exhibition. It is a hope of mine that I can use the Artist Statements within to create the booklets for my exhibition.
Skye Elizabeth Carroll
Monday 26th April. 2021