I saw online that a contemporary Australian painter, Rick Amor had an exhibition at a gallery about an hour’s drive away. The show finishes this weekend so yesterday I decided to drive over and take a look. Amor’s paintings often speak of dark psychological spaces. The landscape painting in the promotion material intrigued me for it looked much like the country around here does right now as the grasses dry off in the late summer sun. http://artguide.com.au/exhibition/rick-amor-painting-silence
Rick Amor, Pines At Staughton Vale, 2002, oil on canvas, 44 x 66 cm.
Before finding out about the exhibition I’d seen Sue Vincent’s photo-write prompt for this week and was thinking about how landscape can reflect some our deeper moods and experiences. Going to see Rick Amor’s exhibition felt like a fitting activity to inspire some writing on the subject.
The drive took longer than I expected for I was held up for ages by extensive road works. There the view from my car window corresponded with the painting I’d seen online.
Further along the road when I stopped for a break I got mildly freaked out some kangaroos who appeared to be more shadows than flesh and blood animals. I wrote about the experience here
This experience was reflected in the first painting I saw when I walked into the Rick Amor show (reproduced here in a poor quality mobile phone photo)
I remembered then that Amor’s paintings are about the uncanny. That psychological space Freud called the Unheimlich – the unsettling feeling that can overwhelm us when the homely and the known suddenly becomes unhomely – even threatening.
Amor’s paintings and the way the exhibition was hung induced such feelings in me. It seemed Amor had anticipated the effect his work creates for when I walked behind the partition wall I was confronted with this painting.
By now I was fully immersed in the unheimlich experience. A certain amount of peeved annoyance heightened my discomfort when I realised the painting I’d come to see wasn’t included in the exhibition.
The gallery is situated in a town that doesn’t really inspire me. After some bad coffee and greasy food there was nothing to do but head back home. This time I stopped at a different place – a Japanese style water garden. I wandered around enjoying the ambiance of running water and exotic plants.
Reflecting on my day and looking again at Sue’s photo prompt I come to the thought that the light is often found by going through the darkness. My life has had it’s fair share of unheimlich experiences. I could write a long list here but perhaps recounting the first experience that comes to mind will give you an idea of the terrain. When I was 15 my home suddenly became unhomely when I walked in from school one day to discover a welfare nurse giving my baby sister a bottle. After the briefest of explanations she handed me both and told me to cook tea for the family for my mother was in hospital. She then left me to it. It was only later that I discovered my mother was suffering from a mental illness and had tried to take her own life.
So, without making a meal of that and my other experiences of the unheimlich I will simply say that life has dealt me some tough hands and there have been times when it’s all, very nearly, been too much. Somewhere along the way something clicked and I realised I could either drown in the muck of it all or aspire to find the light. Since then what I have learnt is that sometimes the only way to find that light is to acknowledge and experience the dark shadows that cross my path and discover what they are teaching me.
Choosing to find the light is a choice I make every day. Sometimes the choice is prompted by big events, sometimes it is simply things like bad coffee and an art exhibition. These days our world so often seems to be a dark, hopeless place where doomsday scenario appear to be only possible outcome for events. I am finding it is imperative to choose just which psychological space I allow to dominate my thinking – hope or despair.