Three Ponds Series C: Essay by Joe Eisenberg Director Maitland Regional Art Gallery
PONDS SERIES C - MICHELLE COLLOCOTT
The spectator wonders what he is seeing and the artwork asks him: who are you?
Barry Jones the ex member of Federal Parliament and quiz whiz once saw a Collocott painting which he had not seen for over ten years. He immediately recognised the painting, remembered the artist and recalled the building, indeed the city, where it had originally hung; declared how excellent the art and artist were; and remarked on the use of colour, collage, layering, mapping and style he had always admired. Jones had not forgotten the painting.
Michelle Collocott is an artist who is not forgotten by those who count particularly fellow artists and true lovers of “real art”. She is an artist’s artist, and her art has remained timeless since her early and successful solo exhibitions at Bonython’s and Gallery A to the current showing at the Wilson Street Gallery.
Her ability and skill have not stood still, and her style, personal nuances and sensitive touch continue to demonstrate her rare ability to make unique art with a voice that resonates of one person and one person alone – Michelle Collocott. She has always worked in layers and employed distinct bright colours mapping her images in geographical like spaces that are pushed around different size canvases.
Collocott’s art is relatively decorative but this is a positive compliment rather than a derogatory statement. For those who understand the visual arts, to be decorative is a quality which is integral to the embodiment of good art. In part, being decorative allows Collocott to harmonise colours, and create shapes which form unifying images. It also ensures that her paintings speak with a generous and beneficent voice and a lyrical tongue to a broad audience.
Collocott has a long and productive presence in the history of the visual arts in Australia. Her work has stood the test of time and those that care and are interested in art look forward to what she next presents. Her artistic progress and migration from exhibition to exhibition and from year to year is often minimal and the viewer has to look with care to observe her growth and blossoming. The changes may be minor but the final canvases demonstrate developments of mood and geographical like mappings from different surrounds which are novel and see light for the first time. Collocott nevertheless always remains true to her methodical method of creating her unique paintings.
Collocott is a storyteller, and geography is part of her subject matter. She sees over the land, imagines what is under the soil and, if a cross cut was made in a particular place, what in theory could be viewed. The horizon is an integral component of her art making and is always a marker from where her paintings arrive and depart. Collocott is not, however, a figurative landscape artist. Abstraction with all its nuances is her chosen tool. She knows how to paint in a sublime metaphorical style and keep the viewer interested. Like a custodian who knows where we come from and to where we are going she helps us define the world, metaphorical or otherwise, which surrounds her and our being.
Her paintings are often inscribed with individual words, or phrases they are also replete with the detritus of a diary keeper and perhaps the collections of a keeper of nonsense. Images and shapes are washed over the canvas and are often repeated usually in different colours and in different modes. Collocott’s art is, however, still neat, sharp and at times almost academic but very elegant, each painting is lovingly formed and treated as part of Collocott’s personal family. Once out of her hands and on the gallery walls the paintings can be embraced and admired by all and they can be understood, enjoyed and grasped, by all art lovers.
Collocott has been painting for many years and will continue to do so well into the future; she knows not what else to do as she is compulsive and passionate. It will be interesting and pleasurable to follow her artistic voyage through her personally and aesthetically made landscapes. This exhibition of Michelle Collocott’s art is an opportunity, after a number of “quiet” years, to once again, as a viewer, make contact with a sincere, productive and well respected contemporary Australian artist.
Maitland Regional Art Gallery -