An Ode to the Orchard
The Main Gallery

An Ode to the Orchard grew out of discussions among landscape painters who are part of the Friday Fridas – a group of like-minded Adelaide artists who come together to share ideas and support each other. Taking their lead from the 19th-century Heidelberg School artists who painted en plein air, the five female painters exhibiting in Ode present a fresh and contemporary view of Australian life through their depiction of the picturesque orchards, vineyards, rolling hills and valleys of Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills.

Since January this year, Greta Laundy, Romany Mollison, Sarah McDonald, Amber Stokie and Sonya Unwin have been meeting at the Lenswood site owned by Mollison. Their regular meetings provided an opportunity to observe the change of seasons and how this transforms the landscape.

The project has also enabled the artists to expand their skills and push the limits of their practice, while challenging each other to produce work through an unfamiliar process. While they have produced a body of work in response to the same location, their individual styles are evident, with some creating process-based studio works and others plein-air responsive works.

An Ode to the Orchard brings the Adelaide Hills to the heart of the city, with the exhibition housed at The Main Gallery in Halifax Street. Ozlem Yeni, a former academic from Turkey, opened the gallery last year and has created an impressive modern, light-filled space.

Walking into the exhibition, you are greeted by McDonald and Mollison’s striking paintings, before moving into the abstract works by Stokie and Laundy. Then towards the back of gallery, in the alcove area, are the bold and expressive works by Unwin, which hold their own in the more dimly lit space.

Romany Mollison’s series of atmospheric paintings embodies a sense of calm.

As the owner of the property at Lenswood, Mollison already had a strong connection to the place before the project began. This is evident through her intimate and atmospheric paintings, which highlight the natural beauty of the landscape.

Mollison is particularly interested in light and other elements such as fog and storms, and their impact on the environment. This series of paintings embodies a sense of calm, drawing you in and allowing you to feel completely immersed in the landscape.

With this project, McDonald wanted to push herself to paint all her works on site and not finish anything in the studio. The result is an impressive series of paintings which are a very immediate response to the landscape.

Reflecting the light and colours at different times of the year, McDonald’s paintings are rich in colour and very textural – an effect created using a palette knife which has become her signature style. While these paintings are a personal response to the landscape, they are extremely appealing and accessible, and invite the viewer to explore their own connection to place.

In contrast to McDonald’s very immediate musings are Laundys experimental and intuitive abstract works. While Laundy made many sketches on site, her paintings were all completed in the studio. With a particular interest in the patterns and shapes in the landscape, the artist demonstrates the changes of the seasons through the use of rich colours and gestural brushstrokes. The works are pared back and represent a very emotional connection to nature.

An interest in the patterns and shapes in the landscape is reflected in Greta Laundy’s work.

Like Laundy, Stokie has also responded with abstract representations of the landscape in a range of media including drawings, collage and painting. It took her months of experiments before she eventually reduced her works down to very simple marks and gestures.

Stokie struggles with complete abstraction, so often places people or objects in the landscape in order to tell a story. For instance, Hilltop Conversations features a fire pit with five seats around it, reflecting the project and the artists getting together and talking. For Stokie, it’s very much about how we use a landscape and what’s happening within it rather than the landscape itself.

Amber Stokie’s abstract representations include drawings, collage and painting.

As soon as Unwin visited the site, she was inspired and began creating immediate impressions of the environment. Through her practice, she is exploring the liminal space of the horizon, and delving into the emotional value of colour within the landscape.

In this instance, Unwin has limited her palette to pinks and greens, presenting a series of works that are so effective you get a sense of the beauty and diversity of the landscape. A highlight is Powdered Clouds, which was rained on when on site; instead of touching it up in the studio, Unwin left it as is.

A selection of Sonya Unwin’s bold and expressive works.

It’s obvious by the energy of the exhibition that this group of artists found the process of developing these works to be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. Through their works, they are all exploring our connection to the environment and have managed to capture a sense of place. While these artists’ interpretations might differ, they all share an appreciation of the Australian landscape.

An Ode to the Orchard is showing at The Main Gallery until December 4.

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