Open-form Figuration

Rachel Fairfax

When I was a student at NAS, my teacher Bill Brown described my work as “open- form figuration.” In explaining this term, Bill pointed to Cezanne, whose work was figurative in the sense of depicting landscapes, still lifes and human bodies, but with a “freeform structural framework” (Bill’s words).

In 2nd year painting I painted many transcriptions from Cezanne. What I learnt from those lessons was how to build form by seeing intersecting facets and planes. I learnt how to make drawings and paintings by working part-to-part to make up the whole. I draw the form and often the spaces in between become important.

John Passmore and Godrey Miller were two Australian artists who built on Cezanne’s example. Some quotes from Miller and Passmore:

“drawing…represents what is the fundamental nature of unity…I have the movement, existing in its own light and where the parts are definite, free from the whole, and where the whole emerges unexpressed and uninfluenced by parts and movements. It is a creation whether it be a drawing of figure, of a still-life setup, a world, a universe or a thought form.”
(Godfrey Miller, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, p.108)

“The organic ambience between sea and earth, embracing things above and below, hints at the mystery, the ‘otherness’ encompassed by Passmore’s mind, a fragmentary vision held together by an intensity of imagination that incorporated his whole sense of being. On a note pad in his studio he wrote: ‘One’s art is an ideogram of himself and also the mystery of things’… He paints as though all his senses were extended to their fullest range of receptivity in an effort to understand his apprehension. Vulnerability has given him an extraordinary sensitivity…’’’
(John Passmore, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney p.18)

Copyright © 2010 Rachel Fairfax