SHE KNEW, TOO
A group show by Theresa Waugh
and Olivia Courtney
She Knew, Too is an exhibition of two artists; Olivia Courtney and Theresa Waugh who, before the inception of this exhibition, were complete strangers. Working in paint, on canvas and panel, Waugh and Courtney have been bought together as contemporary, female, abstract painters who (in Waugh’s words) challenge the “…familiar order of beauty”. Their drive being to keep paintings from“…become[ing] anaesthetic to our perception…continue[ing] to trigger further invention—to sustain the vitality of painting” (Waugh, 2016).
Ex-Aucklander, Waugh completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Auckland University of Technology before going on to complete a master’s in fine arts. On completing her studies at the end of 2016, Waugh relocated to Christchurch (where she now lives and works). Waugh was awarded the Gordon Harris Excellence in Painting Award in 2014 and 2015 and the Dean’s award for Excellence in 2015. Waugh has exhibited at St Paul St gallery, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Northart and Uxbridge Arts Centre and has work in the James Wallace Art Collection.
Waugh’s contributions to She Knew, Too are comprised of paint and pencil atop wooden panels which sit portrait or square. Repetitive brush strokes dominate the works, wiggling through the lean acrylic. At times she lets you see beneath to a previous layer of colour, otherwise the shapes remain strictly opaque. Compositionally, the works are highly organised; with meticulously ruled math-book-size grids covering the panel in pencil. Stencilled on top; a variety of forms including circles, diamonds and squared-off lightning bolt shapes. Most frequently these travel towards the upper right-hand corner of the work, bringing movement and a consistency to the body of work.
Despite the geometric and stencilled precision employed in some areas, Waugh’s works also house irregular shapes. Wiggly lines in bold colours travel across the works and thick webs are deposited loosely in paint. In creating works, Waugh continues until she achieves a successful “visual sensation”. She describes her practice as having a tense ‘to and fro’, whilst she “…attempts to find a combination of harmonious and dissonant aesthetics values”. Waugh works on panel for this reason; rather than discard unsuccessful combinations, she continues to layer works allowing previous paintings to exist behind successful works.
Courtney on the other hand is a recent graduate of Massey University in Wellington and now resides in Warkworth (upper north island). Acutely aware of our reliance on screens, Courtney’s practice is largely driven by “…what painting can offer that screen-based medias cannot”. This is in terms of her own entertainment (as maker) and that of her audience (as viewer).
Courtney uses paint to collage her works, distinguishing between the various paints by colour, viscosity and finish. Thin acrylics lie alongside clumpy polymer, whilst royal purple sits neatly beneath secondary orange. Painting wet on dry, but also alla prima, Courtney plays with her materials and how they respond to one another. This can be seen in her work Pop! where the spray paint has separated and split atop the high sheen lacquer. Orange Dots further illustrates Courtney’s love for the texturally rich, as ridges of paint stand high, dusted with spray paint like the icing of a cake.
The exhibition was titled She knew, Too by the artists to communicate the inherent similarities between their practices, despite being strangers. Like Waugh, Courtney’s work holds grids but rather than being precisely ruled, they are applied freehand in loose, globular lines and exist only centrally in the works. Circles are also stencilled on in almost the same orange selected by Waugh, however rather than atop the work, they sit beneath the peaks of acrylic, masked away. Diamonds and scalloped edges are present within both as is the layering of old upon new until visual harmony is achieved.
She Knew, Too is a playful exhibition which explores aesthetic values as they are seen by Waugh and Courtney through push/pull and experimentation.