Riffing on Louise Hearman

Carolyn Gerrish

There’s nothing normal in these atmospheres. Such surfaces
Of disquiet. An otherworldly light over a cathedral of trees.
A glow from nowhere. The presence of the numinous?
See that cloud, like a punching bag.  Who would have thought
the air had such attitude. Has someone hallucinated
a snub-nosed child into this landscape with no contents?
On the ground, those solid yellow shapes. Rocks?  Sandbags?
Diseased teeth after a lifetime of smoking?  But you could trudge
for miles along the road.  Cry out in alarm when it disappears.

Yet there are more children far from schools’ unwelcome
discipline.  But their punishment for absenteeism  is 
disembodiment. Head and shoulders of a boy/girl in a prussian
blue swamp. Others with no legs to flee from harm.  A young
woman  meditates  as a slimy extraterrestrial  glides up to greet 
her.  Will she take the bait and mate with lizardly otherness?
Look, a a large empathic dog sits on the aurora borealis.  Who says
there’s no afterlife for animals?  The weather, though, can turn
scary.  Pull the ears off a cat.  A predator bird takes centre stage.
Poses against the setting sun.  Will these tremors we experience
disappear if we ever wake up.

Louise Hearman  (b 1963), is a Melbourne artist who has been painting and drawing since she was very young. Her work has appeared in many major exhibitions and she won the Archibald Prize in 2016 for her portrait of Barry Humphries. This major exhibition of her I saw, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2016, was utterly enthralling. These paintings are the stuff of dreams, particularly nightmares, and the images could be used by the makers of weird surrealist movies. These works are untitled, as the artist prefers that viewers make up their own minds as to what is actually going on. There are floating heads, intense lighting effects, roads that go on forever, limbless children. But these fragmented dreamscapes create a sense of wonder and ambivalence in the viewer. The artist’s ability to transcend  the discomfort of logic and create such paradoxical strangeness, allows other creative souls the freedom to use her images as a jumping-off place or to dream up their own uncanny work. Her paintings are fragmented dreamscapes which possess an ‘underlying sense of disquiet’.

Carolyn Gerrish is a Sydney poet. She has published five collections of poetry. She likes to perform her work. Her sixth collection, Collision with the Shadow, will be published by Ginninderra Press in 2021.

%d bloggers like this: