Romance of Absence

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RINA FRANZ blends romanticism and scientific gloom in her latest exhibition Absent…landscape.

The Perth painter was enjoying a six-month residency in Basel, when she became obsessed with the plight of the shrinking Swiss glaciers.

“Only two glaciers in that region have not been affected by the global rise in temperature,” she says.

“Scientists estimate that the ice melts by one metre every month on the worst affected mountain peaks.”

Every day Franz would slip on her modest backpack—containing a sketch pad, watercolours and some provisions—and hike up the mountains, sometimes reaching 3km above sea level.

Some smaller exhibition paintings were done in situ, amongst the rime and rocks, while most of the larger 1.5×1.5m works were based on notes and preliminary sketches taken during her ascent.

“The air was pretty thin and I would get a bit dizzy at times,” the artist recalls.

“But the sense of inspiration I would get from those six-hour hikes were phenomenal.

“It truly put me in the heart of my own painting.”

Using watercolours, inks and gouache, Franz conjured up a dreamy collection of balding glaciers, anaemic skies and green valleys once caked in snow.

Franz cites English romantic painter JMW Turner (Ivy Bridge, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up) and contemporary German painter Anselm Kiefer as influences.

Underpinning the soft skies are a series of precise rock faces and peaks; hinting at Franz’s previous life as an architect in Rome.

Franz emigrated from Italy to Perth in the late 1970s—then in her late 20s—after falling in love with WA’s “incredible open spaces”.

“Because of the tightly packed buildings, everything in Europe has vertical perspective, while WA is wide open and feels horizontal,” she muses.

“However, it can feel quite disorientating when you’re in the bush with an endless sky and no point of reference.

“I get the best of both worlds by living in Mt Lawley: when I’m not in the countryside I can walk everywhere—us Europeans love walking, it never leaves us!”

She went on to complete her BA in visual arts at Edith Cowan University before landing group and solo exhibitions at national galleries, including WA Art Gallery and Catherine Asquith Gallery in Melbourne.

Like many modern artists (papal and royal patrons are now vaporous) she supplements her art income with a day job lecturing art at Central TAFE in Perth.

“Hopefully people will be able to enjoy the aesthetics of Absent; but will also stop and have a think about some important environmental issues,” she says.

Absent…landscape is at Turner Galleries, Northbridge until June 22.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

 

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