Featured artist #2 Susan Nuevonen

My latest art acquisition, a print of a work by Susan Neuvonen, fellow Noosa Open Studios artist. Susan, along with Desley Roach, Trish Menzies and I, all Marcus Beach residents, joined together to form the Marcus Mini Art Trail. I visited Susan’s studio yesterday for a preview, and felt drawn to this image. The work is poignant. Like all good art, it comes from the heart. Out of grief and mourning emerges something very beautiful.

Here are Susan’s words:

Is Art part of a life well lived?

I found a large empty commercial paint tin,

took it into the backyard,

started tearing pages out of my handwritten journals,

lit a match,

and unceremoniously fed the pages into the fire.

I didn’t read any of them, just let them go up in flames. 

 Looking back, I can see that the burning of the journals was the beginning of some important realisations that play out in my art practice.

Whenever I am creating, I am totally absorbed and present in moment – or try to be. If my concentration is poor, or my mind wanders, inevitably my painting session does not go so well.

The way that I paint is a process of embracing change. When a painting isn’t coming together, I will retire it for a while, months or sometimes years, by which time it is part of the past, so I can see it with the fresh eyes of the present. Often I will start a painting with something in mind, but the finished work bears little resemblance to original concept.

Covid Capsule, Oil on linen, 61×51 cm

This Covid Capsule painting is an example of how the process works. It started with a painting that hadn’t gone to plan but was one that I knew it still had some potential, so I retired it.

A few months later I bought it back to the present, creating a strange bleak landscape. Then I noticed some brushstrokes that slightly resembled a face appeared on the canvas. And so idea for a covid capsule evolved.

A Map for Navigating Life

  •  The Universe is in constant flux and the only thing that doesn’t change is that nothing stays the the same.
  • The past is gone and the future is yet to come.
  • Human life is therefore a continual process of beginnings and endings, embracing and letting go.
  • This requires acceptance of what is, and some insight to successfully navigate a way.
  • The present is where to direct our energy and attention.
  • Life culminates death, the process of  simultaneously letting go and embracing the unknown.

You might find this line of thought fatalistic or bleak, but for me it is a guiding path that cuts through a lot overthinking, unnecessary worry and regret. As a result I am more productive and proactive rather than being passive, angry, frustrated or disappointed.

Why blog if you are a visual artist?

Fun street art in Paddington Sydney

It is difficult to be a painter alone in your studio, no matter how much time you spend there. You have to show your work and engage with an audience, for it is social contact that energises and renews us.

Christopher Allen, Arts Writer, The Australian 

Christopher Allen goes on to say that perhaps artists were luckier in earlier times when they were commissioned to paint significant subjects for public places such as churches. Their works had a shared meaning that people understood and that was relevant to the time and place. Artists therefore had a responsive wide audience. 

Now, perhaps with the exception of graffiti, art is not so imbedded in the fabric of society. It has become rarified being ‘held’ by esteemed institutions. In contemporary western society at least, you can see fads in art and ‘trending’ artists. There is fierce competition to get a gig at a commercial gallery, or to be part of a prestigious gallery ‘stable.’ We speak of ‘the art world’ as if it is quite seperate from the real world.

That leaves an outsider artist like myself, who hasn’t been to art school. but who is serious about her practice, wondering how they can find a way to escape from what Allen calls “the quicksands of solipsism”.

Being an artist is about creating works to be viewed

A website and blogging is one way to reach an audience, though it does have limitations where visual art is concerned. That said, it has never been easier to publish your creative work, be it literary or visual.

Up cycling

I love gathering bits and pieces to make small creative compositions. The act of gathering and arranging various objects is like a reverie that reminds me of people, places and moments.

A nature loving women who bought an artwork at my recent exhibition, gifted me this delicate little nest, found on the the ground in her beautiful tree-filled native garden.

The enterprising little nest maker had gathered polyester fibre, from who knows where, to fashion her nest. I decided to give it a new home in wood, as I imagined that the nest once belonged in a tree or twiggy shrub.

This little collection is a homage to up cycling and recycling. I made the small mosaic ball from an old plastic ball found on the beach, and the oblong wooden bowl was made by a Zimbabwean artisan from an old Rhodesian railway sleeper. Of course the nest in the centre is the the most innovative piece of up cycling.

Gathering and placing objects is a special way of remembering.

They don’t make them like they used to

I love motel rooms that have original bathroom features. These days hotels and motels have fixtures that will fall apart in less than a decade. The Aneth Lodge in Cortez Colarado has a bath, sink and toilet built to last.

I’m not sure how old the motel is, but the bathroom has a Deco feel. One thing is certain, while it’s unlikely to be of deco vintage, the motel predates the “built-in obsolescence” era.

I feel sad that these days the decor changes are so rapidly that beautiful functional designs can all but vanish as people devalue them because they are deemed unfashionable.