8 November - 19 November
day month – day month 2022
Tuesday – Friday: 12pm – 6pm
Saturdays: 12pm – 4pm
Tuesday and Friday evenings: 6pm – 8pm
..with each work I am thinking of how we are all part of nature, of a moment in time and the passage of time; the changing seasons and the cycle of life….
A celebration of Birdsong.
This beautiful exhibition of 40 or so works by artist Carolyn Roberts, bears traces of her previous work, yet takes us somewhere compellingly new. In this exhibition, Birdsong, it is the birds that take centre stage.
Here, Carolyn invites us to experience the soundscape and landscape she has occupied these past few years. This is not simply an invitation for a stroll in the park—no matter how lovely her works may be—but a call to engage more closely with the details of our natural surroundings, so that we may better learn to share the space.
In Birdsong, we see an enduring theme of Carolyn’s work, her close attention to the natural world and the plants and animals that kindly allow her to share their home. Carolyn also asks us to bear witness to the mutability of all living things. All things must pass, as George Harrison put it, reflected in this exhibition in the desiccated leaves, the empty nest, the dead bird, alongside images of plants and animals in the first flush of life. All seasons of life are present in Carolyn’s work.
The birds we see and hear in Birdsong reflect the two lives Carolyn lives, between two homes she shares with her husband, in suburban Melbourne and in the countryside of Normandy, France. Most of the works in this exhibition draw on her life in Normandy—the song thrush, blackbird and robin that sing there. The parks and gardens of suburban Melbourne are given expression too, by the magpie, the sulphur crested cockatoo, the kookaburra. Yet it is the tranquillity and birdsong of the Normandy countryside which most inspires and enables Carolyn’s practice.
Held in France over an extended period by the Australian policy of closed borders, Carolyn witnessed for the first time the full cycle of the year in Normandy, at the same time enduring profound grief over the long separation from family and good friends. This exhibition captures some of those very personal experiences of the positive and the negative dimensions of the pandemic.
In his 2020 book, ‘Où suis-je?’ (‘Where am I?’), French philosopher Bruno Latour uses Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, that famous depiction of isolation and social alienation, as a metaphor to describe the experiences of this pandemic. Through her art practice, Carolyn Roberts, too, poses the question ‘où suis-je ?’ as she navigates the natural worlds she occupies. In the works in Birdsong, she answers this question most eloquently, setting out the challenges and contradictions, and the joys, of an artistic life grounded in nature, during the time of this plague.
Harrison, George (1970) All Things Must Pass, title of album.
Kafka, Franz (1915) The Metamorphosis, republished in English, Bantam Classics, 1972, New York.
Latour, Bruno (2021) Où suis-je? Leçons du confinement à l’usage des terrestres, Éditions La Découverte, Paris.
Anita Devos, PhD
28 August, 2022
I live my life divided into two equal parts, two hemispheres: I spend half my life in Melbourne and the other half in rural Normandy.
My work has always been subjective and has long been concerned with questions of time and place, navigation, dislocation and sense of place in the world. These areas of interest continue as I experience my two different lives.
At the beginning of the pandemic I was unable to leave Melbourne. Eventually I made my escape and then had to remain in Europe for 17 months. Despite the anxiety caused by all of this, I was able to see it as an opportunity to immerse myself in the landscape and to enjoy the experience of the full cycle of seasons.
I prefer to examine the small rather than big picture, so my works are concerned with the minutiae of the landscape – the little things that I find around me. Informed by, but not bound by the rules of botanical and scientific illustration, I like to deconstruct my environment in order to better understand it.
With each work I am thinking of how we are all part of nature, of a moment in time and the passage of time; the changing seasons and the cycle of life.
– Carolyn Roberts, Artist Statement