Sunday, December 5, 2010

Anna Reynolds

I’m exhausted.

I’m trying to convince myself that it has nothing to do with my age and everything to do with the heat, the drive to Batchelor and back, the abuse I have received from a foul mouthed parrot, the unpleasant growling from a dog of unknown breed and the rapid-fire conversation from Anna Reynolds. Let’s just say it’s not the sort of pace I could maintain for any length of time. I’m looking forward to a granny nap.

I enjoyed the drive to Batchelor although I did wonder, once I had arrived, why anyone would go there unless they had a specific reason. It never strikes me to be the sort of place you would go just because it’s there.

Directions to Anna’s place were somewhat convoluted. I had written them down hurriedly and somewhere between passing the speed sign and locating Anna there was a comment about finding the town centre. This was a challenge in itself since the conception of a town centre is yet to be achieved in this small community. It seems a garage, three public phones, and a general store suffice. I know Batchelor has a history but I wonder if that is all it has. A group of school children wandered aimlessly across the road, paying no heed to my presence and looking as though they had lost something. Civilisation, I suspect.

I approached Anna’s house with caution. I had been warned of wild animals lurking. The gate was secured and unwelcoming. The fence was high enough to contain most animals that had come to mind. I called into the wilderness beyond. Someone or something called back with a scratchy ‘hello’ as if they were clearing their throat from a bad case of bronchitis. I called again. The scratchy voice told me to bugger off or some such. I was about to do just that when a more serene voice called from within the house.

‘Come in. My dog won’t bite’ and I am immediately reminded of a scene from The Pink Panther. I entered cautiously; the dog and I keeping a respectful distance.

Anna lives in her art. Literally. Her small piece of suburbia in this less than vast metropolis is a creative work in progress. As we meandered through the undergrowth Anna acknowledged each crevice, construction and cranny as a curator might when explaining an exhibition. Although there are a number of distinct areas with specific purpose such as the chook yard, the shed, the outdoor shower and the ‘guest room’, each place migrates into the next as paints of different colours unite to form a single image on a canvas. It is as though the space is growing from the inside and the parameters are providing infinite room to move.

Anna demonstrated great pride in her outdoor achievements. It’s a welcoming place where people can wander, sit for a while, or stay forever. We chose a loose plank in a shady spot to chat. Anna had recently received news of an Artist’s in Residency in New York for which she had applied. This seems part of a plan which will hopefully establish Anna as a legitimate, full-time, working artist. Her family history is a strong basis for her ambitions. There is a long line of artists that have provided Anna with an ancestry to link with. I gather a sense of self-recognition in her conversation as she relates her plans to me. It is as though, in the process of identifying her own ambitions as an artist, she has recognised in herself the ability to do this. She shakes off credibility as if it was raindrops in a passing shower yet recognises the importance of being ‘known’ as an artist. The accolades, awards and rewards are part of that, and so is the paperwork. Yet, either may not have seemed that important in the past. At 41 Anna now knows what she wants to be when she grows up and the time seems appropriate to do something about it. After all, artists need to eat.

Anna’ preferred working medium is her surroundings and all that encompasses. Nothing is safe. Everything has a place in her extra-ordinary mind. It is as though she is rearranging the planet to her own liking. There are boxes of trinkets and trivia scattered everywhere but Anna isn’t collecting or hoarding. She is simply waiting for an idea to formulate which will place the items in their rightful aesthetic position. It’s not good enough that a stone might be guided by gravity or a leave by the wind. Some minor adjustments from Anna will make it just that much better. I am reminded of Ansell Adams comments about photography when he suggested that ‘dodging and burning was the photographer’s way of improving on God’s work’. I get the impression the same philosophy may play a significant part in Anna’s actions. And when you look at her work you get the feeling she is probably right.

I am most familiar with Anna’s digital work. Her manipulation of photographic images is profound. From a distance they hardly appear as what we usually understand as photography. But a close inspection reveals a dimension that is mesmerising. Again, it is the essence of ‘gather and re-arrange’, evident in her garden, that predominates in her images. Fragments of images digitally stuck together and arranged to form images from images. Every detail relates to every other detail. The anatomy of the final product is what makes the whole work so well. Yet you don’t notice the detail until you take a very close look.

But that’s not all. Anna showed me a ‘book’ she had created. If there was another word for it I would use it but for the time being it’s a book in the sense it has pages – of a sort. And once again there is the ‘many parts make the whole’ philosophy. To appreciate what Anna creates in all her work there are two perspectives you must take. The first is to get back far enough to view the whole thing. Here you can appreciate the form as you might when wondering through a gallery. Then you need to get close because it is here the art reveals itself. If the object in question was a living thing we would be witnessing the environmental dependency and relationships between cells. Anna’s work reveals a beauty that is very much dependent on how the individual parts relate to one another. Photographs, cloth, beads, lace, fur, paint, ink, words, are arranged in the Anna Reynolds manner.

And where does this all come from? Well, let me reveal the real reason why I am so tired. I simply could not keep up with the thought processes Anna revealed in her conversation. If you adhere to the idea that the brain has a creative side (the right side, so it seems) then Anna’s right side took over the left side some time back. She operates on the creative level with both hemispheres blazing. I’m even convinced she uses a lot more than the 20% the rest of us are supposedly using. Is it any wonder the dog growls and the parrot swear? It is their way of avoiding being swept up in the artistic process and incorporated into a mural or mosaic.

At this point I recorded a few images. Anna ignored the click of the shutter. She had progressed to a new level. There was no room for an intruder. For a moment I watched in amazement. Her hands move from object to object as she spoke to ..... herself, maybe, about her art and it’s ‘function’. For Anna her art appears to be an opportunity to give physical structure to her ideas. Her words describe what she sees but not what I see. I see a person with incredible creative energy. The greatest expression of Anna’s art is herself. The rest is a bonus.

At that point I became aware of my own vulnerability. Would I become a decoration for the balcony or a component in the next sculpture if I lingered? The dog growled suspiciously and the parrot wished me a less than fond farewell. Anna was anxious to get back to her garden.

I’m looking forward to a good lie down.

Thanks Anna.

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