I am delighted to be opening this superb exhibition, thank you Catherine and Jenny for trusting me.
From Dr. Estes book, Women who run with Wolves, itstates that within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity and ageless knowing and I certainly believe it in respect to these two women, Catherine Stringer, the painter and Jenny Barnard, the poet, who have collaborated to produce this wonderful display of Dancers & Dreamers. Catherine and Jenny have worked together before on improvisational work, but this is the first time they have held an exhibition which presents life as a series of dances or performances within a dream, with all of us therefore, dreamers and dancers.
'Catherine's paintings consist of wonderful, evocative, flowing images of figures underwater. Their various postures and movements are reminiscent of dance moves and appear otherworldly in the weightless watery setting.
Jenny has captured the essence of each image, by linking the dance or musical element to an aspect of human nature or experience, particularly those times that can be seen as transitional or turning points.' (from media releases written by Catherine Stringer).
This is a collaboration of profound insight. The work is so refined. There is sincerity in Catherine and Jenny's vision and tone and they are both so tuned into the sensory world.
Most of us have been mesmerised by looking at water and can share the experience of the subjects in Catherine's paintings. She arouses sensations in us and she opens our eyes to delightful perceptions of colour, light and space. You can smell the water, be calmed by its colour therapy. It's as though the water has swallowed the light from a rainbow. The images float and channel toward us.
Psychologically, water as an inner ocean, an infinite super personal sphere, has frequently been identified with the unconscious, both collective and individual. This protoplasmic flowing entity may also be alluded to a cosmic womb from which all was spawned and into which all return. Water is a birth metaphor. Writer, Sue Moss describes entering the water - is to experience going down, going into, going through. The primeval and subconscious are often only a splutter away. Catherine's images make you feel that you want to go to the water. You can feel the great cleansing wholeness wash around you.
Jenny is always inventing new ways to reach her audience through her poetry. She takes risks. She understands that writing is a means of examining and discovering. At last year's Tasmanian Poetry Festival, Tim Thorne of Cornford Press described Jenny as a wildly-high flying genius. In her poetic response to these paintings, she has evoked dreamers treading amongst their most dangerous fears and unsettling fantasies, steadied by the certainty of returning to ordinary life.
Mata Hari said - The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word. Jenny has worked within a structure which has created a sense of proportion and balance to the whole exhibition.
The images in her poems are clear and crisp.
Dance isn't a form - it's a way of life where mind and body work together. This creates a sense of renewal, unity and completeness. Through dance, it is thought people can identify and express their innermost emotions, bringing those feelings to the surface. Catherine appears to have painted her subjects, while they're moving, with her combinations of dance and colour. There is the dance of childhood with its innocence, fragility and impermanence. Some images are merely figures afloat in the currents of life, some fight imaginery obstacles, some are gasping for light, some allow the tide to carry them and there are salty and tidal dancers where the water could be tinged with blood.
Catherine's Whittle Ward Series - Waking to the Light - would make a hardened agnostic feel religious. The five paintings titled - Dusk, Evening Star, Midnight & Beyond, Venus Morning and Nascent Light, were developed during an arts project with pall care patients from the Whittle Ward.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said in her book On Death and Dying: we have to take a good hard look at our own attitude toward death and dying before we can sit quietly and without anxiety next to a terminally ill patient. Working with dying patients and their families and friends demands considerable communication skills, emotional stability and courage and Catherine has created the soul of her subject in these paintings. There is so much beauty in their dying and death.
The shroud symbolises heaven, it unravels and reaches toward the light, air and freedom where the soul will disappear and the body will float to the surface leaving the underworld behind and I quote from Jenny's poem, Nascent Light:
cloud by cloud
you are going home
In these paintings, the water appears benign and Jenny's words swim effortlessly through the currents and shadows.
We rely on art and poetry to articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy or sorrow. If art is understood as communication of lived experience through visual symbolism, the paintings and poetry here today, without question, succeeds as art and we should work at looking as intently as Catherine and Jenny do, so that the paintings and poetry work their magic with their startling comparisons to vulnerability, fragility and death.
I feel so refreshed by this wonderful art and word show as I'm sure you will too. Thank you all for being here to support these two amazing artists.