Outback, Marginal Lands
Louise Foletta, water colour on canvas, (2005)
In the somewhat male dominated field of Australian professional representational watercolour painting, Louise Foletta is one of the few women artists who receives equal consideration in such areas as corporate collections and commissioning of work. She has also trodden a unique line of her own, mediating between aspects of Australian realist art and artists’ groups and the values and stylistic pre-occupations of contemporary Australian art. Given the vast differences and lack of communication between these two different systems of art production, Louise’s work represents an intelligent and lively synthesis, with much validity as an art practice.”
¬ Dr Juliet Peers “More Than Just Gumtrees”
The connection to realist art traditions and concerns in Louise Foletta’s work indicated by Dr Peers is most clearly alive in her landscape painting. This manifests not as a desire to create a representational object for its own sake, but in the need to capture and communicate the spirit of place that comes through her spiritual attunement to the land.
Louise’s work is grounded in the experience of the landscape itself. Some of the works are conceived and completed at the scene, and reflect the immediacy of that experience. What is attempted is not only the impressionistic rendering of a lively, light-modulated surface, but also a translation of the inner response to the land onto the paper. The paintings owe less to the retina than to the soul. That is why the more modernist preoccupations with the inherent values of colour, texture, surface, and design inform Louise’s work so consistently. She does not use them to strive to create a pictorial illusion, but to engage fully the visual sense as the primary connector between the outer world and our inner being.
The outback landscapes with their flat horizons and powerful presence, rich, colourful textures of the earth and the dramatic play of light make this an inspiring subject. In the desert, the experience of time is contradictory. Time is evident in the layers and effects that demonstrate its passing, yet rendered insignificant by the stillness and immensity of the land itself. Light and shadow reshape and remake the landscape on a daily basis. The weather washes and blows away the soft soils of the desert, constantly sculpting its surface, revealing and concealing its past. Drought, such as we are currently experiencing, stretches the land to its limits.
In a trip to the Balranald area, Louise’s overwhelming response was to the way that the drought affects both the aesthetics and the utility of Australia’s marginal lands. The drought simplifies the images and exposes the earth and thereby shows the textures of the land which is usually covered with vegetation. With a minimalist subject, the problems of creating space and moving the viewer through the picture plane become the challenges. To convey a sense of place with miniminal subject matter means that the paint qualities also become the subject of the work. Louise’s paintings show the influence of the colourfield paintings of the late 1960s and early 1970s, however the artist has taken these ideas further, developing a greater sensibility to colour in the context of landscape.
Drought heightens the colour and tension in the landscape. The land’s fragile and ancient nature becomes particularly apparent and relevant when we are in farmed country. During a period of drought, the political nature of the management and allocation of water intensifies. Louise’s paintings represent and implicitly comment on the issues associated with the politics of water. The Murray River paintings show Australia’s major river at dawn. The exquisite beauty of this moment carries an implicit warning that unless we take care of our environment, we put our fragile land at risk.