Belynda Henry is one of Australia’s leading and celebrated landscape painters. Over a 20 year career she has been a finalist in the Wynne and Archibald prizes at the Art Gallery of New South Wales several times, placed works in private collections at home and internationally, and exhibited continuously with more than 30 solo shows to her name. Henry was recently included in the popular book ‘A Painted Landscape’ by Amber Cresswell Bell which surveyed contemporary landscape painters. 3:33 Art Projects had the pleasure of collaborating with the artist for an exhibition with the Clayton Utz Art Partnership, at Clayton Utz, Melbourne late in 2019.
We connected with Henry to discuss her upcoming exhibition ‘To Paint Is To Love’ with Australian Galleries, Sydney. This new body of work promises to be a personal and emotive response to the beauty, resilience and the vulnerability of our Australian landscape. Unrestrained and intuitive the paintings offer insight into Henry’s deepening relationship with abstraction, and her inner world.
Join the artist for drinks at the opening of ‘To Paint Is To Love’, 12 to 5pm on Saturday 28 November, numbers are limited please contact Australian Galleries for more information. The exhibition continues until 20 December 2020.
Can you tell us about ‘To Paint Is To Love’?
The idea for the exhibition was born from a conversation with a creative partner and the writer for my upcoming book, To Paint Is To Love. It was suggested as a parallel to Arthur Miller’s book, To Paint Is To Love Again. It is something that is going on for me at the moment on a deeply personal level. Miller wrote, ‘To paint is to love again, live again, see again.’ I feel like I’m seeing my work and path into more abstract work in a new light. And of course I have always loved to paint.
Has the preparation for this exhibition been different to times past?
Yes, preparation is always different however this one seems more loaded. It is not about the work itself but the process as well. Artists aim not to reveal what is behind the curtain, in this instance I’m peeling it back, and that is uncomfortable. It comes on the tail end of my sell out New York show, which was an absolute thrill and a watermark for my career.
The battle is not to get to into my head about it all, aim to keep the work free and instinctual and keep moving the boundaries. If you look back into the very recent past, landscape painting has been such a male dominated genre and I was cognisant to give my work gravity and a power that transcends gender.
Are you experimenting more with the language of abstraction, how is it speaking to you?
Abstraction finds you. It is a case of ‘when the student is ready, the master appears’. And when it happens, it just feels right – a move from figurative or landscape work, through a portal of abstraction. Abstraction gives one the ability to hack through complexity. Modernity or modernism in design may seem simple, however it really is the hardest thing to accomplish and communicate with. How is it speaking to me? At the moment it is saying ‘keep going and keep up and don’t dare look back’.
How have you still managed to spark encounters with landscape during the ‘suspended’ times of this year and limited ability to travel?
Artists have been isolating, well forever, and in my case my travel consists riding my bike down the road by the dam to my studio situated smack dab in the middle of the landscape that I paint. It may sound counter intuitive however artists thrive during constraints. It is evidenced throughout history. I marvel at what my contemporaries are creating at the moment.
Did the bushfires affect your approach this year?
I think it affected all of us. It was an ominous prelude for things to come. The smells, the colours, and eventually the regrowth. There is immense beauty in regeneration. It was a reminder that nature will be here long after our tenure here on this earth. I don’t think it is a question of saving the planet – it may be more about saving our selves. This planet? She is here to stay.
Looking back on the past 5-6 months have you changed, refined or adapted your sense of self as a creative person?
I do think I have more than ever. I have been encouraged to pair down the work and move with the gestural work, dare I say it more of my masculine and abstract side. A colleague suggested I stop a painting way, way before I even thought I had started on it… and just meditate on it. It was in my mind only a quarter finished however that lead me down a new path. Sometimes the most important thing an artist can do is… stop.
This article is presented in collaboration with 3:33 Art Projects