The Geologica Series by Kate Briscoe: An Essay by Joanna Mendelssohn
Kate Briscoe's work has always been concerned with textures, layers of history and the land. Hers is not the landscape of leafy trees and ephemeral beauty, but the harsh geology of bedrock that underpins all that we may stand upon. She understands land that is weathered and worn, blasted with the winds and rains of time. This way of seeing the land is getting down to its very essence, knowing the real character of a place, without the visual distractions of flora and fauna.
Briscoe says that she likes 'to be in places that are scary because of their absolute isolation". Her recent series of paintings Geologica, fulfils all her long held passions.
The place is the land around Geikie Gorge at the very edge of the Kimberley in Western Australia. It is a landscape of weathered rock, tall cliffs and fault lines forced by the harsh geography.
Briscoe's tribute to this sublime, harsh beauty can be seen in her latest series of paintings. They are richly textured, built up with thick pigment that has then been scrubbed back, as though buffeted by the elements, and by time.
Her photographic record of her expedition to the Kimberleys shows tall cliffs, where sandstone has been forced into conjunction with ancient limestone from the prehistoric land mass we now call Gondwana land. This clash of colour and texture has produced deep fault lines, cracks as deep as the meaning of time.
It is the visual ambiguities of these fault lines that so intrigue her - they crack their intensity down the lines of her canvases, their shadows shape into a strange geometry.
Visually there is a strong connection between Briscoe's recent paintings and her earlier work as a printmaker, when she would make etchings where the plate, eaten by acid, would reveal hidden layers of meaining. Here, however, her medium is pigment strengthened with river sand from Yass in Southern New South Wales, thousands of kilometres from their visual source. As she scrubs back the different layers of paint, subtle differences in colour are revealed.
The best way of describing these paintings is to say that they were born old - their toughness, monumentality and their rugged surface give the impression that in these works Briscoe has captured the ultimate essence of an ancient land.