Friday, December 31, 2010

Tracey Polglase

Tracey greeted me at the gate of her Nightcliff apartment. I know this area well. I worked across the road for nearly ten years. A tall person could probably get a glimpse of the ocean from here. The demography is that of young couples with no children and good jobs: DINK’s. Tracey’s appearance and my diminutive knowledge of her history seem to fit the demographic. She’s certainly young, by my standards at least. There is no evidence of children (she looks far too calm and relaxed). My records indicate nursing as the chosen profession, and, I should add, a disturbingly attractive one at that, with a penetrating stare and reassuring smile that, I can only imagine, would place the patients at Recovery somewhat at ease knowing Tracey would be the first person they saw after awakening from some troublesome surgery.

She ushered me through the door into a neatly arranged apartment (more evidence of no children). Something recognisable was emanating from the stereo across from a smartly furnished living area. There seemed little evidence of any artwork but I wasn’t concerned. My experience with artists over the months prepared me for the most imaginative ways of hiding the consequences of their talent.

We chatted for a while on matters Polglase. The faint Kiwi accent gave rise to some conversational geography and the nursing background presented itself with talk around hospitals and careers. Tracey has some academic training to accompany her art as well. Unlike most, she enjoyed and values her formal art training. It seems to sit well with her orderly nature, perhaps.

It was time for the tour. We started in the hallway. I’m not sure how I missed them, but directly opposite the entry door hung two significant works of art that, from a distance, looked very much like something you would find splattered on the tiled wall of the local abattoir. What I realised, on closer inspection, is that you don’t actually notice the big picture; something akin to losing sight of the forest because of the trees. Tracey noticed my curiosity as I step in for a closer look and began her explanation of these curious works.

‘The red represents blood and the words are meds used at the hospital’. One word triggers a memory of another place and the image is immediately intensified.

I was tempted to step back to get it all in context but remained transfixed on the detail. Some of the words I could identify with; others were a complete mystery but each had the effect of knitting the image together as an orb spider gives strength and structure to its web. A cold shiver ran across the back of my neck.

‘This one is about my mother when she was ill’, Tracey explained, as only she could understand. The prevalence of blue left no doubt about the impact of her mother’s illness. I am always moved by the strength of imagery when a personal, emotional factor is involved. I am getting the impression that this is what art is meant to do and Tracey has certainly succeeded with this powerful piece.

‘The rest are back here’ and Tracey ushered me into ‘The Gallery’. If artists working from home had the luxury of endless, well lit walls I’m sure they would display their work in the best possible light. Unfortunately, Tracey falls into the same caste as the rest of us. This leaves the scrutiny of her work to looking over the spare bed at a dozen or so canvases stacked against a wall or rifling through a wardrobe in an attempt to get a glimpse of an alluring sketch. There is an advantage to this method of display, of course. One can view a great deal without having to walk very far.

Tracey’s style is varied. I’m no expert, as you have all gathered, so don’t assume I know what I am talking about, but it seems the difference between groups of canvasses is quite significant. Those hanging in the hall have a structure I can identify with. The story is evident in the content and context. The swirls of colour I see before me n another place are as different as I can imagine. As I scan the room I am aware of being watched. Sir Edmund Hillary peers out from a corner of the room, cold and grey as I’m sure he was on numerous occasions. The likeness is striking.

I wonder if Tracey is still finding her way, her artistic voice, as she stretches her imagination and skills into these different genres. Then again, she may have found her voice; she just sings in different keys.

Tracey takes me through a number of albums displaying photographs of her work. There are many examples of the hospital environment in an almost monochrome style that would be more to a photographer’s compositional approach than a painter’s. Tracey divulges that she uses the camera to record much of what she wants to paint. Her skills as a photographer would do her in good stead in my world. I am reminded of Diane Arbus’s reflection on her need to photograph ordinary things as if we were seeing them for the first time. The paraphernalia of hospital life is certainly ordinary. Yet these images are giving me an extra-ordinary view of a very mundane world.

As I move back into the intense, mid-afternoon, tropical sunlight I remind myself of what it is I’m looking for. There is a reason why Tracey expresses herself in her art. At one level it is to find a way of expressing the feelings and emotions she has about her experiences. At another level there is the need for verification from herself and others that what she paints is how it is for her. Reality is everywhere but interpretation and insight are personal and often abstract. Tracey has learnt the skills to show us her interpretation and insight of a very real world in a very real way. And I’m grateful for that.

Thanks Tracey

.....and just two more things.......

Tracey entered a painting in the Senior Territorial Portrait competition. In keeping with her medical background, she has chosen to portray the very anaesthetist who rendered me unconscious before I succumbed to the surgeon’s apparatus. Since my recollection of the event was somewhat clouded, I can appreciate the lifelike figure on canvas – just in case I meet him in the street. Tracey’s painting didn’t win any awards but the subject purchased the portrait. I assume it was because he liked the painting, not because he didn’t want any of his victims to recognise him.


Tracey and her close friend, Tash Willmett dusted off their canvases for a showing at the Craft Extravaganza held at Marrara Stadium in December. I do believe that for sixteen hours over that weekend, the Centre of the Universe was shifted to the four-by-four metre space these two artists occupied.

1 comment:

  1. "Reality is everywhere but interpretation and insight are personal and often abstract. Tracey has learnt the skills to show us her interpretation and insight of a very real world in a very real way"

    Agree with that, really thoughtful work y...ouve got there and it gets more vital everytime I see it. Good stuff.