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Courtesy requires that I don’t photograph in my local gallery, so I do a crash course by dot-point in appreciating art, and pay a visit armed with notebook and pen, a practically virgin 0.2 Artline (I do have the occasional obsession!) This approach proves to be an eye opener. I actually stand in front of the paintings and scrutinise and absorb them, instead of pointing camera, clicking and thinking about them later, with many aspects of them lost to two dimensions.

What I look at first is fish: individuals and schools, all painted in watercolour by Annie McCarron. What I see is the beautiful run of watercolour; a palette of greens, blues, mauves, pinks, greys, indigos, yellows, whites, as fish with personalities and, dare I say, smiles cruise across the paper. The paintings have titles like “Attitude”, “Salty individual”, “Slippery wallpaper”, “Moody blues”, “Down in the Davey dark”.

Then, as I clumsily sketch the shapes in each painting, I realise the diversity of composition. Sometimes the background is divided diagonally with a turmoil of water creating a sense of movement; sometimes the fish shape fills the whole frame; sometimes the background is divided into three vertically, the panels broken by a green-blue horizontal patch.

I have been so sucked into McCarron’s fishy world, I find it difficult to concentrate on Cheryl Davison’s exquisite art, so I decide to return another day.

Davison is an Aboriginal artist who melds traditional painting Aboriginal techniques with modern influences. Her paintings are in earth colours, acrylic gouache on paper, and feature animals and birds from her home territory around Narooma, which is also my home territory. In her paintings all things are familiar: waratahs, spotted gums, burrawangs, wonga pigeons, sea eagles, yellowtail black cockatoos, cormorants, giant figs, and Mother Gulaga with her possum-skin cloak. Her composition features curves, circles, spirals and dots in layers which act as markers for different levels of the landscape. In “Yellowtail black cockatoo” the trunks of three spotted gums with rounded tops are against a background of concentric circles. At their base is a burrawang against a background of cross-hatching. “Ancient mothers” is symmetrical: three birds fly through a dot sky above round-topped trees on the curve of a hill. Fitting neatly beneath the hill, the curve of a fig with its buttressed trunks, each individual leaf placed on its crown. Beneath the tree three female figures with pendulous bellies against a background of spirals and swirls connected to each other. 

There are two pieces that depart from Davison’s usual style. “Two Walbunga” is made on handmade paper, fringed on two sides so there are wispy shadows on the mount. A tall leaf standing beside the two slender figures, one holding a grass spear, has a dotted midvein with textures from the paper creating the texture of the leaf. Part of the second hand-made paper piece is shown in the image at the beginning of this post. All her work is subtle in both colour and design: my descriptions don’t go near doing it justice.

Gallery Bodalla is a place I always love to visit, for the diversity of its exhibitions and for the wide-ranging conversations with Valerie who owns the gallery. If you want to see the scope of what she exhibits have a look here.