I was talking to a group of friends last night about the skill of writing - how sometimes to write simply (with intelligence) is harder than to gush, be super clever or verbose. I wonder if artists have similar conversations. Virgina Coventry's paintings are pared back. Her ideas are distilled into a single line, or two. It seems so simple but, of course, it never is. She recently exhibited at the Liverpool St Gallery in Sydney.
Which five words best describe you? Intelligent. Passionate. Determined. Urban girl who enjoys solitude.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My career started with my first group exhibition at the Slade School of Art, London in 1968. Since then I have made a career as an artist – painting, drawing, printmaking; photographic projects; lecturing in art schools in Melbourne and Sydney and exhibiting my work.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To be true to one’s self.
What’s your proudest career achievement? In 2004, the Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, held a survey exhibition of my work titled The Light of Open Spaces: A Survey of Virginia Coventry’s Work, curated by Terence Maloon.
What’s been your best decision? I taught in art schools for over 34 years. In 1999 I decided to retire from teaching to work full time in my studio and focus on my practice.
What was the starting point for this exhibition? The work from my last exhibition in 2007 at Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney, and titled In Place was the starting point for this exhibition. My work over the last forty years has explored relationships between light, spatiality and colour. I use the language of abstraction to translate our innermost responses to embodied experience. More recently, my work has proposed “an ‘acoustics’ of colour”– a concept that picks up on the way we use the terms tones, keys and pitches in thinking and talking about both colour and sound. For this exhibition, I have created an ensemble of new medium to large-scale paintings. Both the paintings and the gallery in this instance are thought of as spatial fields where the dimensions, the distribution of colours, and the crossing of natural and artificial light might be brought into relationship. I use metallic and interference pigments to create ‘live’, vibrant surfaces that continually change in response to different light and angles of view. In installation, the space is an area for mediation and contemplation.
Who inspires you? Young and old people who are intelligent, compassionate and engaged with life.
What are you passionate about? Colour; the light of arid landscapes and big open skies, Sydney Harbour, Paris, New York City, music, long friendships, enduring relationships.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Henri Matisse when in his seventies.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To still be painting at 90!
What are you reading? The Invention of Paris by Eric Hazan; The Vintage and The Gleaning by Jeremy Chambers; Parisians by Graham Robb; The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross...
images courtesy of virginia coventry and liverpool st gallery