Susan Baird’s new suite of paintings capture the evolving sense of place that the artist has developed from immersing herself in different landscapes throughout her long career. Largely created en plein air across Hill End and Tasmania, the paintings canvass the vicissitudes of the natural world, springing as much from physical topographies as they do from psychological, emotional and spiritual affiliations. Vibrant strokes of colour, swift brushwork and suggested forms conjure a kind of optic memory, evoking the sensations of form, shape, light and colour experienced out in the field. This poetic visual language is, in the artist's own words, made up of ‘observations of many moments of seeing and distilling the landscape from its infinite possibilities’. She works slowly and observes time unfolding, and yet there is a movement and transience to the works – as if glimpsed fleetingly from a car window. Consciously harnessing liminal or ‘in between’ moments – when the sun retreats behind a cloud, the wind caressing the trees or the pool of light that gushes in at the day’s end – the works channel Baird's harmonic awareness of the rhythms of nature.
‘Sense of Place’ maps Baird’s artistic migration from Hill End to Tasmania, charting her aesthetic responses to these diverse Australian landscapes. Having undertaken two residencies in the gold-rush town of Hill End, the artist continues to contribute her unique voice to the deep regional artistic legacy of this iconic place. The paintings in ‘Sense of Place’ capture revenant vistas of the town’s former glory and colonial past via otherworldly landscapes imbued with effervescent colour, transformative light and shifting atmosphere. Some of the works depict a dam and its reflections surrounded by sweeping meadows on the far side of the town where the locals used to retreat from the heat and the dust in the 1850s. The paintings created in Tasmania are also the crop of an artist residency, undertaken on Bruny Island in November 2015. For Baird, the light in Tasmania was unlike anything she had experienced before and these works hence required a vast shift in palette. She found herself ‘feeling’ her way through the landscape, her poetic renditions of land and sky hinging on intuition and observation, as well as her natural fluency with form, pigment and tone. For the artist, the exhibition ‘pays homage to the landscape, the friends that share these places and the stories that these landscapes hold […] In a world that has become increasingly dehumanised I hope to share an honest record of my personal experience and love of landscape and light’.