2 April - 27 April
2 – 27 April 2019
Tuesday – Friday 11am to 5pm,
Saturday 11am to 3pm
easter/ANZAC hours: TBC
Friday 26 April 10am to 4pm
“My interest is not in a fleeting glimpse of so called ‘perfection’ but how time treats beauty…”
For artist Robbie Harmsworth, ‘beauty’ still matters.
In her new series of work, On Beauty, Harmsworth presents not just unapologetically ‘beautiful’ works but works that for her engage with the idea that beauty only comes with depth, with power and, perhaps most importantly, with a bittersweet transience.
“My interest is not in a fleeting glimpse of so called ‘perfection’ but how time treats beauty – why do we find a corroded Greek sculpture of a human figure with missing limbs, or a dying flower, beautiful? Real beauty for me is about life… and life inevitably comes to an end.”
To illustrate her practice Harmsworth has come to use the term ‘palimpsest’; the layering of new text over the scraped away remains of an older text, reusing the primary base material. But the broader meaning is just as relevant: something reused or altered, but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form. This approach allows her work to speak to her interest in how time affects matter.
“This multi-layered, complex imagery also allows me insight into beauty as something that is to be discovered, that is not perfect. Beauty that reflects the experience of the dark as well as the light.”
Looking back at Harmsworth’s three decades of practice it is tempting to see a clear line from her early acclaimed ceramics to this show, ‘On Beauty’. An artist’s life is never so simple. Her deep immersion in archaic mythologies; her passion for the tactile; her fascination with time as defining characteristic of human experience and her absolute mastery of the multiple disciplines her work requires, have carried her along a path rich in revelation and surprise. But there has always been beauty. For Robbie Harmsworth it goes back a long way…
“I grew up near Toolangi on top of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria surrounded by beautiful rainforest. I was free to create and explore this paradise with little constraint. Discovering the power of the natural bush, perfumed with native mint and dogwood and the damp pungent odour of rotting logs laden with mosses and miniature ferns… the mists rising over Mount St Leonard, looming sentinel like over the valleys….my own Mt Olympus – home to mythical gods and goddesses.”
Like many artists, these acutely powerful childhood experiences have found ways to echo through Harmsworth’s work but the passage of time has brought a maturity of vision that recognises the dualities of experience and nowhere is this more so than in her evolving idea of beauty. By way of explanation she finds herself drawn to the words of Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki: “We find beauty not only in the thing itself, but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates…. Were it not for the shadows, there would be no beauty.”
Peter Cudlipp, 2019
Robbie Harmsworth is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Melbourne. She completed a Diploma in Fine Art at RMIT in 1977 and a Masters of Fine Art at Monash University in 2008.
Her practice is an intense study of the power of myth and its universal message, and takes in ceramics, drawing, painting and assemblage. She was a finalist in the Paul Guest Drawing Prize in 2012, 2014 and 2016, and the 2014 Kedumba Drawing Award.
Robbie’s work is represented in the collections of Shepparton Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria.