UNDERSTORY – from the ‘Collected Works of Susan Purdy 2004 – 2016’
Susan Purdy flies under the radar so far as possible. An introvert by nature she prefers to observe from the sidelines than stand in the spotlight. As an artist she is not interested in art world fame but she is thoroughly ambitious for her art practice and actively seeks out an audience for it. Art is at the centre of her life and she continues her dedication to working in her Gippsland studio, pushing the boundaries of ideas and materials.
Her subject matter is, and always has been, the connection to nature she feels.
Her creative quest is to make this experience visible, live on the page, to marshal the forces of light and energy and translate the untranslatable.
The key to making this happen using the photogram process, and for the viewers understanding of the medium; the elements of nature used to make these images are recorded rather than imagined or described. They are found and placed by the artist. As a record, they retain the direct connection, the exact shape and size of the object printed – nature’s presence is contained and continues within the space of the paper. This faithful imprint making a fundamental link with nature that holds the work, creating the firm base upon which a delicate shadow play is performed.
The way photograms are made is very much a performance; in the darkened room light sensitive paper is unwrapped and objects placed on its surface. When every detail has been attended the exposure is made – a moment in time, a sudden flash and the light is conducted, directed and withheld – using hands and little makeshift wands to dodge, and card with holes to burn the places of the print which need to darken down. This complicated dance has its own written score that is tested, refined and adjusted.
A lengthy planning culminates in this fleeting testing moment – the delivery requiring a warriors precision and speed – for those few seconds it is make or break.
The artist has not invented these objects and is not responsible for their existence – they remain themselves, their inherent beauty shines through. Her job is to understand and skilfully employ the photomedia; to use her experience to predict that certain arrangements will hold power, will give the landscape a voice that can be heard. And so the work comes into being as a collaboration between the artist and the natural world – that is always and freely offering up its rich bounty. This generosity and love rewards the close and fine attentions of the artist, and is made available to others through her images. They are reminders and messages from nature, wanting to be reclaimed.
Susan Purdy lives and works in the Strzelecki Ranges, in Gippsland, on the South Eastern corner of Australia. Her work is focused upon reinterpretation of early photographic practices. It is in a number of significant public collections including the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria.