Karlee Rawkins

Freight Train

September 8 - September 22, 2012

The mythic and the personal are once again entwined in Karlee Rawkins' new body of work. The paintings are visual demonstrations of how the human, spiritual and natural worlds are intrinsically related. She describes the title Freight Train as a poetic reference to the speed and intensity of her life of late, and her current interest in films and books relating to America's western frontier in the 1800s. "I'm interested in tales that involve man in the wilderness and the subordination, or not, of nature," muses Rawkins. "The big themes of this genre appeal to me too, so much about honour and justice, morality. I consider this to be my 'Wild West' show - a train of totemic animals, strong and heraldic, all following each other. Collectively they build upon the sense of place or atmosphere I'm attempting to create and have the aesthetic of the western movie, desolate, stark, beautiful, with a focus on tactile materials, wide blue skies and dusty ground."

As in the tradition of the native North Americans, Rawkins' fauna and flora subjects are given a metaphorical context. Her ‘train of animals' is an encoding for human emotions or spiritual aspirations. The eagle is a symbol of might, valour and perception. It is the bird that flies highest and is therefore the sky spirit messenger. It represents a rising above the material world and the triumph of light over darkness. Noble and intelligent, the horse in mythic lore is an embodiment of power and vitality. Appaloosa, the show's feature piece, references not only the mottle-coated horses of the American North West but is also a tribute the "fabulous, fat, part-Clydesdale horse" Rawkins rode in her early teens. The caribou is thought to signify fortitude and perseverance. It is known for the tenacity to keep moving forward and to get things accomplished despite difficult situations. The painting Where is the White Caribou may be read in such a context. As its title suggests, the magnificently plumed turkey in the work Thanksgiving celebrates reintegration and the fulfillment of aspirations.

An intuitive investigator of form, Rawkins amplifies symbolic substance through abstraction and distortion. "I wanted to create dynamic, quite stark pieces, sticking to a very painterly loose application of paint." says Rawkins. "My animal characters are intentionally a little awkward with an ambiguity of form and ground and a twisting of correct biology." The romanticism of pattern for camouflage or decorative purposes is something Rawkins delights in. Fragile scraffito-like markings, blocks of filigreed colour and exuberant loops of charcoal define shapes and give compositional accent. Her sources of inspiration are diverse indeed, ranging from religious and psychedelic art to Florence Broadhurst wallpaper designs. Rawkins explains that ‘outsider' art and abstract expressionism have also had an influence on her approach to painting: "I am intensely interested in capturing the raw moments of creativity on the canvas - this is what I find most exciting in art."


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