works: painting and etching | australia 1980s

 

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Janet McKenzie grew up in a remote part of coastal Eastern Australia; the floods each year on the Snowy River changed the shape of the beaches. Usually there were two large, deep, dark pools about 20 metres across: it took many years to realise that the ponds, lakes and subliminal lochs that she had been painting and drawing ever since stemmed from those memories.

She studied History of Art and Philosophy at the Australian National University and etching at the Canberra School of Art with Jörg Schmeisser. The works done in the early 1980s whilst teaching art history at the Canberra School of Art and the Victorian College of Art, Melbourne, are mostly dry point and aquatint, simple in technical terms, sometimes making a series of unique prints (Untitled, 1984) by printing state proofs, and drawing onto them.  The work was instinctively conceived, using landscape as being synonymous with psychological space or states of mind. Works such as: Memento Mori (1982) and Sanctuary (1982) refer to looking for solace and meaning in nature.

She was introduced to the medium of pastel by Peter Booth with whom she drew regularly in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (1985) and Mirka Mora who taught her pastel techniques that would allow the move from one area of colour to another. She was invited by Macmillan Australia to write Drawing in Australia: Contemporary Images and Ideas (1986); in the process she worked closely with William Kelly for whom drawing was central in his art practice, and visited over 60 artist’s studios mostly in Melbourne and Sydney. She examined 1000s of images, wrote about 100s. She also worked as a studio assistant for Noel Counihan who taught her to handprint linocuts; she wrote a small monograph on his work (1986). On moving to Scotland in 1987 she set about applying a great deal of what she had learnt in 1985-1986 in particular, finding Scotland to be full of the shapes and spiritual forms that had been in her subconscious since childhood.