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Michael Spens and Janet McKenzie, Isle of Skye, 1991.

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Janet McKenzie with Arthur Boyd, Tuscany, 1991.

works: painting and etching | scotland 1990s

 

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In the 1990s painting was worked in between raising three daughters
(Christiana, b1987, Flora, b1989, Mariota, b1993) in a new country; writing a PhD on Arthur Boyd; travelling between Scotland, London, Australia and Italy for research. Four paintings done in Arthur Boyd’s studio in Tuscany in 1991, using his handmade oil paints, and a number of drawings made there, formed the basis of a series of paintings completed over the next 2-3 years. Interviewing Arthur Boyd and being encouraged by him to keep painting was essential to maintaining her own art practice, throughout a busy period with publications and family.

Trips were made to the Isle of Skye, Lewis and Harris and the northwest coast of Scotland with her father Donald McKenzie, a photographer, who visited from Australia. On Lewis she drew the Standing Stones at Calaneish, at mid summer. Following her father’s death in 1990, her brother David accompanied her and her family to Skye (1991). The trips there pay homage to their family who migrated from Skye to Australia in 1861. The Outer Hebrides continue to provide inspiration, which underpins ongoing writing and art practice. (see Drawing on Two Worlds, 2010)

At Wormiston on the North Sea, the seasons were in great contrast to Australia. Layers of history existed in the form of Bronze Age burial cysts and remains of ancient buildings. The bleak winter weather and short days, gives way in the springtime to a spectacular show of bluebells, a solid block of deep violet, and long days. Perceptual drawings were made and notebooks kept: of woods, trees, flowers, birds and babies. Dolls, puppets, theatre costumes and sewing (an extension of the drawn line) and collage in fabric, established a body of work that is ongoing. They centre on the role of nurturer and observer of natural phenomena. Following the serious illness of Michael Spens, Janet McKenzie worked for a period of 4 months initially in 1998, in Sydney with Ken Done, reacquainting with the colours, sunshine and optimism of Australia, a necessary foil to the reflective, elemental vocabulary being developed in Scotland.