A Mirror On Memory – Review by Lindy Ross
A withered leaf crackling with brittle fragility, a pine cone collapsing into aged and battered kernels, a faded hibiscus bloom – these are some of the subjects artist Sharon Field presents in her solo show ‘A Mirror on Memory’. She has specifically chosen these and other specimens of plant and flower life to demonstrate that a life already lived still has beauty and relevance and memories.
Where does one draw the line between art and illustration? Sharon draws brilliantly and is capable of perfectly accurate scientific renditions, such as Telopea speciossima. Her water colour Yellow Rose and Cyclamen, and her graphite rendition of Themeda australis (Kangaroo Grass) (incidentally, a finalist in this year’s Waterhouse Natural History Art Competition) demonstrate her mastery of observation and her technical expertise.
Yet the great emotional impact of this exhibition comes from Sharon’s ability to move away from pure illustration and to bring the emotions of poetry, memory and imagination to her subjects. She chooses her specimens from familiar and loved places; she presents them with their back stories, their past lives, with short snippets of information and haikus as delicate as their drawn images – nature reflecting the passing of time.
Now we see the Musa acuminate (Banana Leaf) – fallen, drying out, past its prime, its colour the faintest of delicate washes. We see Pinus Radiata, a cone from a loved tree on Sharon’s property, not just a dried out husk but a long time provider of food and shelter for the Black Cockatoos of the area. We see the delicate colours of the iris, so fragile yet so tough.
The 40 works in the exhibition range in size from the 5”x 7” drawings which reference the famous 1887 Melbourne Impressionist exhibition on similar sized cigar box lids, but in this exhibition capturing the impression of plants at a particular moment, to much larger works. Not, as many artists present plants, at the peak of their perfection and beauty but instead displaying the scars of a life well lived. There are the delicate and beautifully tonal graphite works and as a crowning achievement the collection of works on vellum, from which the paint glows in a translucent bloom.
Sharon Field has managed to beautifully capture the ‘shock of the real’ – that instant of exposed fragility in her botanical subjects that we, too, experience when we hold a mirror to ourselves in an unguarded moment.
In this, her first solo exhibition, she has produced perfection from imperfection.
Guide, National Gallery of Australia