THE ESSENCE OF TREES: Local artists Jennifer Matthews, right, and Valarie Robinson opened their exhibition titled ‘Trees’ this week at The Art Vault, with their colourful collection of abstract works depicting the veins in leaves and tree branches and the textures of bark. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

VISITORS to The Art Vault over the next few weeks will be able to take in a new exhibition by well-known local artists Jennifer Matthews and Valarie Robinson, whose latest exhibition, ‘Trees’, opened this week.

Jennifer said it had been challenging to have all the works ready in time for the exhibition’s opening due to minimal lead time.

“It’s been hard work getting everything done in time, because I was only invited to exhibit here in May this year, after which I asked Val to join me, and we had to create all new work for it, which has been challenging, but we got there, it’s been go, go, go really!”

Jennifer’s encaustic artworks are a fascinating collection of abstract pieces depicting trees and bark impressions, which have been created using a variety of materials including bees wax, resin and pigment.

The art work starts out as a blank piece of board, to which materials are added in layers, starting with wax which is heated to fuse it to the surface, pigment is then added, which might include fast drying alcohol ink or oil-based ink, and graphite may also be used to add a charcoal effect.

The subject of the works and the exhibition theme ‘trees’ for Jennifer dates back to her early childhood.

“Ever since I was a child I have been excited by trees, and there was one leafless tree on a hill that I particularly liked, and would see when I was travelling around with my parents and I’d play a game looking for leafless trees,” she said.

“Therefore I have always loved trees and their dendritic shapes (tree-like) which you see in nature – it’s the veins you see in leaves and tree branches, which are not unlike the veins in our bodies.”

Valarie’s works are created with her own original technique, in which she utilises white fabric or silk as a basis for her pieces.

It’s fascinating to see her finished works, which unintentionally perfectly complement Jennifer’s work, with blending and contrasting colours all depicting the same theme of trees.

“This is cotton fabric with machine stitching to which ink has then been applied over the top, and salt over the top of that, creating specific marks,” Valarie said pointing to one of her intricate works.

“I use photographs of trees and bark as a reference and interpret those into the ‘marks’ which I then ‘draw’ with my sewing machine, coloured ink is then added onto the fabric.

“There’s quite a lot of water used in the process too, with some of the fabrics having been coated with black ink about four times, which then disperses, and that’s what I like about the process – the random ‘serendipity’ of water.

“I have a fascination with ink at the present, and I’ve always been a machine sewer, and previously I exhibited quilts for many years all around the world, but now I’ve stepped back from that and I’m enjoying this simpler work.”

Valarie also has works which have paper as their foundation to which ink and salt has been applied followed by water, other pieces started out with black fabric as the basis, which has the dye removed from it in a process known as dispersed-dyeing, and then other colour is added to create the finished work.

The ‘Trees’ exhibition will run until August 13 at The Art Vault, 43 Deakin Avenue.

Opening times are Monday 10am to 2pm, Wednesday to Friday 10am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 3pm.