Focusing on a particular setting to reach something universal preoccupies Joanna Logue, and she tries to achieve this in her solo show Floating World through landscape paintings that lean towards the abstract. “When you really hone in on certain kind of landscape and paint it over and over again you arrive at something universal,” she says.
Now living on Mount Desert Island, off the coast of Maine, the particular scenes that Logue paints have shifted. Formerly, her property in New South Wales was the site for investigation. “I was painting the same place or motif of the eucalyptus, the willow tree, the pond and the paddocks,” she says. “Moving to Mount Desert Island was the first time I’ve gone to a very different landscape and I was worried about how it was going to be, but it has really opened me up to a new way of looking and seeing. There is something about living on an island too, which is an interesting feeling of remoteness and dislocation, and you get this strong sense of community.”
Logue has immersed herself in the natural environment with daily treks through Acadia National Park. The harsh winters also encourage a different way of viewing. Logue describes the turn of winter as leading many to vacate the island. “It feels like it’s just the lobster fishermen and me. It’s like you’re just battling against the elements which make you feel really raw, and I start listening to different music and reading different poetry. It just takes you into yourself,” Logue admits.
As well as physically immersing herself in the landscape Logue approached her new environment by looking at how other painters had responded to the island, including John Walker, Alex Katz, Lois Dodd and Marsden Hartley. “That’s been a really interesting launching off point in how to unpack this landscape,” she says. “How did these artists do it?”
Notable differences in Logue’s new paintings are bright tones and robust paint application, compared to her previous works which were soft, like viewing an unfocused photograph or a landscape through the haze of half-closed eyes. Natural features on the island that influenced her paintings include upright birches, strong cloud shapes, vibrant autumns, felled wood, mountains, bodies of water, and long shadows on fallen snow.
“There’s a lot more patterning in these works because of the dappled light reflecting on the surfaces of the marshes and ponds. There’s quite a kinetic energy that I see coming in. My paintings from home were quiet in a way whereas these paintings are quite kinetic, busy and fractured,” the artist says. There is a stronger sense of geometry and shapes which comes from the granite and sparse topsoil on the island, resulting in what Logue describes as a feeling of solidity in the works.
Logue speaks of painting as a metaphysical experience akin to automatic writing. “Then the intellect kicks in,” she says, “and I have to bring some structure to the chaos. There are lots of layers to address, which I think all painters have to battle with: a visual approach, and then the cerebral and intellectual. How am I going to make this read properly? How am I going to make this harmonious? It’s a push and pull.”