“Dooralong is just a valley populated by horses, cows and trees, but it’s very beautiful to me,” says Belynda Henry of her home in New South Wales. Here, she creates quietly dynamic and luscious paintings influenced by, but not beholden to, her rural surroundings.
Henry has experienced this valley multiple times from the window of her car, an every-day journey that fed into her work.
“For the last 12 years, up until very recently, I’ve been driving in and out of this valley, taking my daughters to school,” she says.
“I’ve made that into a positive. I suppose that’s what painter’s minds do. They are always hunting and gathering slashes of ideas, whether colours of compositions or seasons.” Her works are, indeed, a synthesis of factual recordings, influences from other artists, and her imagination.
Lines play an important structural and emotive component in Henry’s work, hence the title for her exhibition at Australian Galleries in Sydney, Landscape Lines. “When I looked at all the paintings I realised that one of the main elements is line work. Lines always catch my eye. And I think that’s what is so beautiful about a landscape; the many lines they are made up of. Shapes as well, but lines are what I’m drawn to.” The colours she uses include warm and cool tones, encased in blocks, lines, and patterns. Some are true to the natural world, while others are fauvist – bright and ice-cream like.
A recent encounter with the lauded Australian painter Elisabeth Cummings was affirmative for Henry. She recalls seeing Cummings speak at her exhibition Interior Landscapes at Newcastle Art Gallery earlier this year. “I watched her talk about how she approaches the landscape, and I figured that I have something in common with her. She would never finish painting totally outside. She always brings it back to the studio. She says that she mixes in her imagination as well, and I thought ‘Oh wow, I can relate to you’.” Henry also cites Cummings’s mode of mark making, where she twists and manipulates the brush, as an eye-opener.
Henry is also affected by art she encounters while traveling overseas, and the creation of this particular body of work was punctuated by a trip to Japan. There she was struck by an exhibition by Vincent van Gogh featuring his paintings influenced by Japan. “He’s a lover of colour and line work”, says Henry of van Gogh, “his paintings really inspired me.” She was also drawn to renderings of waterfalls common in Japanese art which informed one painting of the same subject matter in this exhibition.
Other paintings in Landscape Lines sit closer to home.
Henry says that some were painted outdoors, including in a new-found spot. “There’s a beautiful little damn I found of the next door property,” says Henry. “I’m always searching for isolated and secret locations. It’s filled with wildlife, birds and different colours.” Scenes such as these come together in Henry’s work to form lyrical impressions of place executed with a defined visual language.