Belynda Henry has never lived in the city. Solitude is a habit and, as an artist, immersion in the landscape drives her paintings. Her works distil imagery which is vested in place, conveying its many moods and experiences, but also the way in which place shapes Henry’s own emotions.
In her latest show at Edwina Corlette Gallery, landscapes on large canvases are increasingly abstracted. Henry relates that she was inspired by American artist Helen Frankenthaler, who is known for her use of staining and influence on colour field painting. In Henry’s case, embedding her own work in her environment in the Dooralong Valley north of Sydney represented “a new starting point”. She uses dam water to stain raw primed canvases, before building the surface with wax and oil paint. “I love how the paint can soak in—it is a spontaneous, magical technique,” she says. “My big dam never settles—it has a clay oxide colour to it. Using its water is a lovely connection to the place I am in.”
In Reflections of a songbird, 2022, blurry shapes evoke low light near an inland stream, taking the viewer into a place where atmospheric greens, lines of trunks, and reflected colours, create a sensory experience of quiet enclosure. “My landscapes respond to place, but express a more emotional [rather] than literal connection,” explains Henry. “It is my escape—using colour and energy I can create calm at the toughest of times.”
A Wynne and Archibald prize finalist, Henry’s art continues her exploration of the Australian landscape. Her work abstracts and responds to her immediate environment, mediated by her experiences. In these paintings, she says, “I am reacting to a beautiful place on planet Earth.”
This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.