Michelle Collocott is signing off. The exhibition marks a physical farewell to Sydney. After 30 years in her Darlington studio, Collocott is pulling up stumps, building a bespoke home, studio and ‘window’ gallery in Black Springs. This small village, just outside Oberon in the NSW Central Tablelands, has been her spiritual home for decades. She has mapped the topography of the mountains, its vegetation and human impact, in paintings which blend naïve drawing with the sophistication of colour and form. The Three Ponds Series has been Michelle’s mark since the late 1990s.
But things have changed. Sydney for one. Constant building, traffic, human density, the passing of friends and family. Time to move on.
Signature is a personal reflection. Michelle has turned her attention to an inner terrain. Here, her simple mark making is not of trees, ponds, fences and dogs, but words. Scrawling words drawn from conversations and letters to those dear to her. Words trailing across the canvas, some coherent, some fractured.
Using techniques familiar to those who have followed Michelle’s work - a collage of enlarged photographic print, tissue, acrylic and other media - Michelle has created, within firm square boundaries, simple grids to contain or shape these words. Gone is the bright palette of her previous work. Here the hues are subdued, flesh-like, punctuated by flashes of ochre. The informality of the text counterpoints the formality of the composition. Layered with the utmost care, the final paintings are beautifully rendered, tender, and at times intense.
This is an important exhibition from an artist who grew up in the crucible of Australian contemporary art, studying at the National Art School in the sixties, exhibiting at legendary galleries such as Gallery A, Bonython, Macquarie Galleries to critical acclaim. An artist whose work has travelled overseas with the works of other major Australian painters. An artist who has had more than 30 solo shows, whose work is represented in major gallery collections. An artist who has experienced, like so many, the steeps and valleys of emotional turmoil. An artist who now lives simply with her dog, Fred, and looks forward the peace and independence of her new home in the country.