Selected images from Pollination, Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne, 2010
Pollination - Catalogue essay by Phe Rawnsley
Emma Walker Pollination at Flinders Lane Gallery 9 – 27 November 2010
Creating rich, semi abstracted images, driven by a rigorous practice of observation and complex mark‐making, Emma Walker has been ardently recording her experience of nature over the course of her career. From the cellular to the panoramic, organic forms have endured throughout, and reflect the artist’s deep felt need to connect with the landscape on both a physical and emotional level.
Pollination continues her ongoing fascination with natural systems. Inspired by the productive quality of the bee colony, these new works present a dualistic vision of nature as a site of external resilience and internal nurturing. Working in both painting and paper assemblage, Walker employs the motif of the hexagonal cell – a form found both within the bee’s eye and within the structure of the hive – along with swift, gestural line‐work to capture something of the ceaseless generative activity of the bee. Observing their flight, navigation, proclivity to build and instinct to nurture, the artist notes that “the complex working of a bee colony feels like a microcosm that mirrors the busy pursuits and endeavours of humanity.”
This sense of ‘busy pursuit’ is achieved through the physical pulse of Walker’s painting gestures. Revealed within her sweeping brush strokes and dense textures, her tension between form and erasure, is a spontaneity and fluidity of image making that spills over from the representational into the abstracted. Elements of landscape – flower, branches and hive painted in both textured and flat surfaces – help construct a series of compositions that relentlessly fill the picture plane, almost to its limits.
Intuitively responding to these systems of organised chaos her work depicts an animated terrain, caught midpoint between instinctual action and poetic lucidity. Colours of sunlight and shade, formed into hexagonal cells of cool blues and warm ambers, operate beside one another to produce an effect of simultaneously looking outside at the world and inward to the safety of the dark hive. A similar imperative to fuse sensory experiences is evident within her assemblages. Furls of leaf form and hexagonal sequences coalesce within the pages of old family books to induce an almost kaleidoscopic ‘whole of life’ perspective.
These are, in a sense, true primavera paintings, although Walker has inverted the typical allegory of a tamed and plentiful Nature, replacing it with a vast and infinite space in which “all things are completely part of a limitless intrinsic whole. The grids, the honeycomb, the patchwork for me are symbolic of this.” Walker is ultimately pointing toward a universal awareness, to a deep‐seated and intuitive desire to exist. By negotiating the representation of both tangible and metaphysical spaces, Walker’s complex images finally hover somewhere in‐ between the human and natural world, to reveal an expression of pure, fleeting experience.