Even For Colour by Heather Ellyard October 2011

Almost from the beginning, Heather Ellyard has combined image and text, to extend meaning and to satisfy her own need for language. Her work is concerned as much with glimpses and overlays as with the paint itself, which she handles consummately, nonetheless.

to expect nothing yet to die daily of infinite expectation……Edmund Jabes 1

Even for colour (with all that colour suggests), I need something else, something more: words. symbols. conceptual bearings.  I need to reach into my time. And acknowledge its political necessities. Its spiritual hungers. Its concerns, revelations and gaps. Its poems and ordeals.  And, within my limitations, absorb its frontiers of invention and awe.

Who does not wonder, in our 21st century, at the stunning growth of electronic invention and vision?  Who does not gasp at the implications of black holes?  Who does not weep at the realization of how very small our beautiful blue grape of a planet actually is, in the cosmic scheme of things?

Even an artist, with the mixed-blessing of eyes, will wonder and weep and gasp.  Even I, a bargain-hunter of an artist, who would exchange much to be able to help the needy around this wobbly globe, will sigh.

It is said: there is never too much beauty; but even there, I need truths.  There is never only one truth; and even there, I need questions and a perspective of hope.

Hope is the angel in my psyche. It sings, albeit off tune, in all my sighs, with all my observations, understandings, dilemmas. It elasticizes my anger, lightens my load of empathies, and highlights the lingering notion of love, however it is realized on-the-ground.

Do not misquote me here, but I will say that hope and love are the undercoating of this exhibition, invisible but sustaining. Not because I am foolish and young; nor because I am foolish and old.  I am still in-between.  My longings are resilient.  Nothing is yet calcified.  And, with equal darkness and light, one on each shoulder, I can still despair at the madness and misfortune all around me, writ large on every continent, or stinking in the dark and mouldy cracks of terrorism. The traumas of our time would be unbearable, if not for colour, but even for colour…..

…..some of this work swells up from mud. From the dark, formative places of the vicsous soul.  The lotus is revered in many cultures and carried far on spirit winds. Precisely because of the journey it makes from its origins, down-there, to the glory of its ‘thousand’ petaled bloom, up-above.  The Lotus Garden, with its ovals of colour and texture, begins with the concept of mud. Inchoate and messy.  It holds the notion of the bud, sketched onto an ochre wall, with all the meanings that ochre and charcoal imply.  Then it claims the bloom, formalized, clear and quiet. Letting beauty be its own reason.  Giving colour its due.  Finally, it offers the indigo pod. Empty. But charged with mnemonic understanding.

The Thinker also moves between colour and content.  Using the stability of the square, from black, to slabs of colour, to the colour wheel.   Offering the hope of listening, and seeing.  Offering glimpses of diagrams, elements, fragments, dithyrambic writing and clean words.  Claiming both body and mind.

There is more: Whispering, in its lightness of being, with its proto-flesh in a white lump and its scribbled heart, with its diagrams of stars, and its solitary ear, is what it is: a near-silence of hope and love. Softly, softly.

Je me fais jeune (I make myself young), would be nothing if not for the beauties and truths we adore, if not for the hope we put in our minds’ eye. ‘speak to me and I grow’ it says, almost wantonly, among other things.

Lessons in black and white, is all about listening and speaking. Among the challenges of our time.  Why this, why now, it asks, while the bees continue making honey, though empires rise and fall.

A footnote on the BLAKE PRIZE.

you may not hear my silent call..…Sam Shain 2

In September this year, Archive of Sighs was a finalist in the Blake Prize.  I believe that the Blake is the only prize in Australia, which deliberately sets out to honour the spiritual in art.  That, and not the generous pickings, was the real motivation for my making this difficult work.  It carries as much as I could offer, given both aesthetic and practical considerations, about the spirit-need for an openness of heart and mind: 

            Though we speak and pray in different languages and persuasions,we are all the same                   human-tremblers in the face of cosmic vastness.

Archive of Sighs is a contemplation of our humanity and our vulnerabilities, our varied longings for peace, our need for meaning, and our spirit-sighs before we die.

 In the Lotus Garden, there is the word cantabile. It means: to be sung.


Heather Ellyard

October 2010