Gina Kalabishis: You & Me

Moody and subdued colours coalesce in Gina Kalabishis’ paintings which elicit feelings of somberness, mystery and warmth. Her latest exhibition ‘You and Me’ at Flinders Lane Gallery presents a series of works that were formulated in Spring 2015 when the artist attended a remote and secluded camping ground on the southern coast of NSW. During one particular visit, she was struck by the luscious vegetation seen flourishing after a period of drought. A heightened sense of awareness awakened from this immersive and untouched environment. Kalabishis developed an admiration for the ways that the different species of plants tolerated and adapted to their environment in order to survive.

The paintings are prepared beforehand and the ideas grow in unison with the construction of the flower arrangements. Foliage is collected, grouped and manipulated into shapes and forms resulting in the creation of complex colours and combinations. Kalabishis says, “…textures, rhythms, perspective and balance are each given equal time and place in the arrangement, until I become connected and emotionally satisfied with the final piece” The arrangements are then photographically documented and digitally manipulated within intimate landscapes that are also photographed, sourced or re-imagined from past Australian artworks. “I start each painting months in advance, with the initial formation of ideas for the work, the extensive preparation and collection of specimens, arranging, documentation, digital manipulation and then the final act of painting.” Depending on the size, each painting can take up to three to five weeks to complete, with eight to ten hours spent working on it each day.

The works consider the fragility of the environment and the existential challenges that humans face. Kalabishis explains, “Spending time in a place like a national park emphasises the dependency and symbiotic relationship between the environment and its inhabitants. To sustain the correct relationship is both a personal and collective choice we must make for the health and vitality of the human race and the world.” The paintings are reflective of a personal relationship with the natural world and the artist relates this to a passionate love between two people, “These works act as love letters to nature, a love that we must nurture and protect before it disappears; otherwise it becomes an unrequited love if we neglect it.” The weaving of plants and the human form is seen in Such Tenderness. Certain leaves and flowers harbor a slight blur which softens the work and accentuates other elements. The fusing between the two life forms solidifies the relationship and connection that the artist is seeking. The foliage appears to be self-illuminating, giving every leaf, stem and flower a unique and luminous glow.

When asked if her practice is changing, Kalabishis says that her curiosity sets the platform for directions of change. Acting like an organic narrative, her practice is maneuvered by inquisitiveness and heightened emotions while remaining freely open to outside influences. The paintings in ‘You and Me’ call on viewers to contemplate their own personal relationships with nature and one another. Kalabishis considers, “These are ‘Romantic’ love paintings to give to humans and the world. To be within the natural environment can be an intimate experience, knowing you are going to lose it, but don’t want to, can be heartbreaking.”

Flinders Lane Gallery
22 March to 16 April, 2016