Subtle Scribbly Artwork by Clayton John

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Australis Terra Incognita framed
Australis Terra Incognita detail
Australis Terra Incognita detail
Australis Terra Incognita frame

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Subtle Scribbly

Clayton John


New Media

Size: 24.8 W x 36.2 H x 2 D in

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Artist Recognition

link - Artist featured in a collection

Artist featured in a collection

link - Showed at the The Other Art Fair

Showed at the The Other Art Fair

Art Description

New Media: Wax, Pastel, Photo on Paper, Wood.

“We got tired of the sameness of the exquisiteness of photography…Why? Because the photograph told us everything about the facts of nature and left out the mystery. Now, however hard-headed a man may be, he cannot stand too many facts; it is easy to get a a surfeit of realities, and he wants a little mystification as a relief.” Henry Peach Robinson circa 1896.

It is the mystical component of this saying that informs my approach to my work. The mystical suggest something more than what the eye witnesses, and it is what my technique (multiple photographic exposures in a single frame) together with the print (100% cotton or Washi) that combines with the encaustic (resin impregnated beeswax) that permits the print to move from the literal to something approaching the subtle.

Nature as is, is all there to enjoy, but unless we stood beside one another and resonated with the same sense of awe then in order for you to appreciate and sense the awe I sense, I must approach nature with a tactile approach, bringing something beyond the mere visual to the viewer.

Our view of nature is recurring, repetitive and unevolving. Trees, water, earth…perceptual differences of species and genus remain but our conception of nature as a whole is by-and-large fixed, almost immutable, from a young age. This body of work is presented in a manner that might allow the Australian landscape to be felt at an intuitive level, thereby challenging the viewer to go beyond individually codified perceptions and thus understand, experientially, the fragility and beauty of this ancient place.

I create landscapes, photographically blended so that the macro and the micro coexist. The intimate Australian landscapes, the scribble of a gum here amongst the red earth and supine skull of a marsupial held together tonally by an impression of the heat of the bush throughout. An intimate landscape, time-frozen by multiple exposure photographic frames is imbued with a sense of mystery and mysticism through the application of a veil of encaustic beeswax. The soft, mistiness of the wax, textured and worked with a paddle and iron, permeates the work both with a sense of authorship but also imparts a challenge to the viewer to engage with the bush from a spiritual, heartfelt perspective.

The Tonalists painters at the tail end of the 19th century celebrated the emotive consequences of using closely related tonalities in their work. Their work strove more to evoke feeling and ‘suggest deep cosmic harmonies’ and held that the congruity of tones lead, naturally, to a contemplative repose in the viewer. This method extracted the viewer from the ‘ordinariness’ of everyday life.

For years the idea of beauty for beauty’s sake had satisfied me but a newer nagging sense of unease led me increasingly towards abstraction, then monochromatic abstraction with photographic images made by Minor White in the 1950’s being a particular source of inspiration. With technological ‘progress’ in the realm of digital photography (namely the ability to create Multiple Exposures images in a single frame) and in printing (Giclee printing to Cotton Rag) a new reality opened up permitting my incipient ideas about image perception and conception to be realised.

Pictoralism, the photographic style particular to the early 20th century, where images were not made first and foremost of ‘things or events’ but rather of feelings and emotions suffered an horrendous death way before its time in the early 1920’s. Its primary proponent, William Mortensen, was driven by the ‘why’ of photography rather than an overbearing interest in ‘what’ was being captured. The destruction of the Pictoralist style through ridicule at the hands of the legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams and his f64 group, saw the summary end to a movement that in my mind held immense potential. A dogma of what was to be considered ‘good’ (versus bad) photography was established and persisted for the following 80 years. Fortunately, the advent of digital photography and the ‘digital darkroom’ (read Photoshop) in the 21st century has seen a renewed interest in reclaiming and expanding the ideas of the Pictoralists. This renewed school of which I am a strident member, has an interest in the intentionality behind the making of an image and actively retreats from depicting what the camera focuses on as a documentarian might. The intention then is for the final image to have the capability to supersede literal depictions of trees, water or earth. It’s contemporary stewards, those whom I hold in high regard: Jackie Ranken, Valda Bailey, Doug Chinnery and Chris Friel communicate through techniques such as ‘Intentional Camera Movement’ and Multiple Exposure photography.

Photography as an artistic discipline sets itself apart from other artistic endeavours in its uncanny ability to alter time. More exactly, in respect of this series, it is photography’s ability to freeze a moment in time that I have perceived as important in serving my distinct purpose. My choice in this series, very often, is to use water, notably ripples of water, often concentric ripples as a device to arrest the viewer, to suspend the mundane and tend towards the arcane. Via suspending the ‘natural order of things’ pause, reconsideration and reflection are prompted in the viewer, if only for a moment, transporting them out of the relentless stampede of time.




Artist Recognition

Artist featured in a collection

Artist featured by Saatchi Art in a collection

Showed at the The Other Art Fair

Handpicked to show at The Other Art Fair presented by Saatchi Art in Melbourne, Sydney, Melbourne