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© Susan Taylor The Sun Sinking

© Susan Taylor The Sun Sinking

Australian summer blows into St Leonards

On these rainy, grey days there is an exuberant exhibition in St Leonards that lights the day. Summer has blown into the Solaris Gallery:  Susan Taylor – Australian Summer.  HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was considerably cheered by the images that celebrate shapes, colour and nature with flowing complex shades and tones that lighten the dreariness of English winter.

Solaris gallery in St Leonards has over the last few years presented various types and styles of art, both photographs and paintings. The driving force is Alex Drawbridge, the owner of this small, friendly gallery and the printer of the work. Although in some ways this exhibition is a departure for her. She was introduced to Taylor by the curator David Rhodes who brought the three of them together resulting in a happy collaboration.

Susan has a great sense of colour and it’s possible to lose yourself in the images, marvelling at her complex colours technique. The colours are meticulously mixed and complex, with a depth that is bewildering in watercolour.And that proved quite a challenge in printing: “Susan produces  complex colours and I thought the red in The Sun Sinking would empty the cartridge.” However, that particular image is a tour de force and Susan is hugely appreciative – she thinks “Alex is an ace printer.”

© Susan Taylor Grounded

© Susan Taylor Grounded

Susan was going away for three months to visit her daughter and family in Australia and the plan was that she would scan her work and send it to over to Alex. The collaboration proved vital: with Susan working on the other side of the world, she felt supported – as Alex received the images it gave them a life rather than them lying dormant until Susan returned to England.

And from Alex’s side, “It was rather lovely because a little bit of summer would regularly arrive in the gallery.”

Over three months Susan made 48 images. When back in Hastings Susan and Alex had hours of conversation about the work, sometimes joined by Rhodes who was instrumental in selecting and hanging the show.

The same but different

I have seen Susan’s work before and found it intriguing. I wondered if her Australian work differs from her English studies. Who knows what goes on in an artist’s mind? And many do not want their creative process forensically examined. The art can only emerge from the artist: their lives, experience and feelings. She explains, “It is the same and different. From the moment I step off the plane I am inspired by the land, the trees, the rocks, the mountains. I will pick up seed cases, bits of twig and bring them back to the house. I work inside my head – not unrelated to the natural world.”

Her inspiration has always come from nature. “I see shapes – animals, humans – in everything, trees, fire and clouds.” Susan has described her working process in a previous HOT article. She will begin with one shape and the relationship of shapes and colour evolves from that point. “I describe my work as abstract but figurative.”

In some  pictures I saw a contentment in the sea, the dry, arid landscape, endemic plants. But there is also a spikiness hovering over the surface, danger lurking in paradise. There is a butterfly in Many Incidents, an exquisite, colourful, insect. Yet it must be agony transforming from egg to caterpillar to pupa, as it emerges into the graceful, ephemeral adult being it is. Within there are also some jagged looking crab claws and an animal bear-like presence that I thought I had seen in a previous painting –  which Susan seemed totally unaware of. The subconsious at work.

© Susan Taylor Many Incidents

© Susan Taylor Many Incidents

Her thoughts on her 2018  Brisbane stay: “A large butterfly with strongly emerald / turquoise wings visits the garden every day… and there are skinks (a kind of lizard) which turn their whole head up to look at you and continue to stare.

“And sometimes, if you give time, to look, to wait, so that more and more reveals itself thro’ tree branches, leaves – mixed plants, living together, then the feeling comes of being in it, communing – a different time zone.’ 

It is an intriguing show. Interesting technique with beautifully executed mixed colour from a confident, assured artist. Alex Drawbridge tells me it has been fascinating working with Susan, hearing about her thoughts and creative process. She might be mining her own sensibilities, yet look, contemplate and you might find they draw your own thoughts and sensations from the work.

Susan Taylor – An Australian Summer: exhibition of new print works in collaboration with Solaris Print. At Solaris, 76 Norman Road, TN38 0EJ until 4 January 2020. Open Tuesday to Friday, 1-6pm, Saturday 10am- 6pm. Curated by David Rhodes.

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Posted 11:14 Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019 In: Visual Arts

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