It’s an absolute treat to have the work of Elisabeth Cummings on display at the same time as the Aida Tomescu exhibition showcased here a little over a week ago. In what is still sadly a bit of boy’s club, these two women have forged exceedingly distinguished careers in the Australian art scene. However where Tomescu presents a bold abstract vision, Cummings almost exclusively paints what she sees; landscape, still life and very occasionally portraiture.
Her paintings are intimate, emotive and require the viewer to take time to interrogate the network of lines and shapes that come together to form the composition. Cummings offers a few visual keys to guide us, the disused cup on a table or the fork of a tree framed by a distant mountain range welcome you into her quiet, private world. Like Tomescu she paints intuitively letting the work reveal itself: ”it’s always in a state of flux and change. I eliminate all the time and re-paint… adding, subtracting, adding, subtracting.” The result is work that powerfully addresses the essence of the place.
Cummings’ ‘place’ for almost half a century is Wedderburn (one hour south west of Sydney) on a property she has shared with many fellow artists, writers and poets. Her observations of this familiar bush landscape, with suffused light and a predominance of the soft greys, browns and greens of gum trees, are interspersed in this exhibition with paintings resulting from numerous travels, most often to the Kimberly, Flinders Rangers and the Pilbara. Like the figurative markers mentioned above, Cummings employs colour, as Anna Johnson so aptly offers, “as a subtle geographic signpost” so you can “swiftly find the difference between a desert floor and a creek bed in these works. The colour is the map.” From the high heat palette of the Australian interior to the coherence of the cooler muted tones, she effortlessly transports the viewer into and around her world.
Like many artists Cummings has combined her studio practice with various teaching positions that have had a major influence on a large number of practicing artists today. As a result, she is often called the “painter’s painter” and is held in incredibly high esteem by the arts community and in this show at Sydney’s King Street Gallery it’s pleasing to see that this is finally extending to a wider collecting public.
Elisabeth Cummings ‘New Paintings’
King Street Gallery on William
177 William St
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Sun 11-6pm or By Appointment
17 November – 19 December 2015
Credits: Courtesy of King Street Gallery on William
Words by Katrina Arent