Rochelle Summerfield: On the River's Edge we meet

Though experimentation and play, these drawings and installations include works that collaborate with the river as part of Rochelle's artistic process.

'I live near Grafton, northern NSW and have my studio at Seelands, right beside the Clarence River.  I am deeply influenced by my connection with, and experiences of the riparian landscapes of the rivers and streams where I live.  In my art practice I explore these landscapes through drawing, mixed media and installation and have developed a personal sense of kinship with particular trees. Each visit (and often by kayak) enables a deeper learning of the subject.  In the field I make ‘Tree portraits’ that are literally imbued with the waters and sediments of the River.  

A portrait comes into being as a large-scale drawing on a length of paper that varies from 2.5 to 3.5 metres.  The fragility and strength of the paper substrate is central to my process of immersing drawings in the River.  The 350gsm Arches paper is strong and malleable in the River for a limited period.  As a plant-based product it absorbs the River sediment, minerals, clay and accidental mud stains. This process changes the qualities of the pencil and gouache markings I make in the studio and infuses them into the paper surface (much like etching does).  I understand this to-and-fro process of experimentation and play as a collaboration with the River. 

Hung vertically in the gallery, the towering scale of these large drawings shifts the viewer’s experience. They must tilt their head up to see the canopy and down to see the roots, just as they would in the landscape. The immensity of each Tree and the magnificence of the River are literally and experientially embedded into the drawings to underpin the strong relationship between these two key elements of the landscape.  They remind us of our place in the world.

For me, this is beauty in the true sense of the word – these gnarled, twisted, old-growth trees are living evidence of strength, endurance and adaptation to their environment.  They exist in a rich riparian landscape, a meeting of river and land, a flourishing place between.  
A place that deserves our love, care and respect'.  Rochelle Summerfield, April 2023

This exhibition is on view until Sunday 18 June 2023.

Image credits:
Above: Splayed limbs cool and endure, 2023, pencil, gouache and gesso drawing with river sediment on 356gsm Arches watercolour paper (detail). Courtesy of the artist.
Homepage square: Memories imbued in the stillness of the Water Gum, 2023, pencil, gouache and gesso drawing with river sediment on 356gsm Arches watercolour paper, (detail). Courtesy of the artist.
Slider: My heart beats with you, 2021, pencil, gouache and gesso drawing with river sediment on 356gsm Arches watercolour paper (detail). Courtesy of the artist.

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