15-28 October 1998
Eltham Community Gallery
Panther Place Eltham 3095
Janet R. Boddy
A retrospective exhibition, by its very nature, has its central focus on a body of artistic work that has been produced over a substantial period of time. It testifies to the development of the artist’s technique and mastery of the artist’s craft and reflects the artistic themes that constitute the direction of the artist’s development. In this respect the work exhibited in a retrospective will speak for itself and this is certainly the case in the twenty paintings by Janet R. Boddy created during the period 1987 to the present and hung by Art Approach, with the support of Nillumbik Shire Council, at the Eltham Library Community Gallery from 15-28 October.
Visually, this exhibition may be said to focus on three images – stripes or bands of colour, mirrors and windows, all of which pick up Boddy’s central themes and make a statement about her essential concerns. In Not Quite Midnight there are many parallel planes which extend our vision in the direction of an endless horizon that perpetually stretches beyond reach. In Phoenix and Window Blinds the emphasis is on movement, an upward growth that suggests creative emergence out of a primal deep but again there is a sense of an endless journey. Origin, journey and destination coalesce in a seamless whole. Similarly, through the windows, squares and rectangular shapes in works such as Mirror 1, Mirror 2, Journey of the Heart and Wave, we look outwards towards a vibrant blue border that challenges, extends but never exhausts our fascination with the unknown.
As if providing us with a platform for our reflections, Window on Time suggests a metronome that sways to the rhythm of a dimension beyond time.
Boddy comments that it is not the horizon itself that fascinates her. She is not contained simply on the two dimensional surface of the canvas. What intrigues her, she says, is “The part of the painting we don’t see”. Her mirrors, windows and stripes are more than simple symbols: they are cosmic telescopes that open up to our seeing a new dimension of human existence. Here, the viewer is enticed to see, not the marks of a brush on the canvas but the mystery that lies within each of us.
Colour, movement and form are all bent to this purpose. These works are the product of an artist in contemplative mood and they evoke a corresponding reflection in their audience. Pointing to Cosmic Mirror, Boddy confesses to being intrigued by the question, “What lies beyond the top line of the central window?” It is a question that many who view the work will be compelled to ask.
The fact that this exhibition invites a profound intellectual response does not mean that it is ‘heavy’ or burdensome. Boddy has always been deft with colour and her management of movement is of a very high order. One of her latest works, the acrylic on canvas, A Dance on Water, is a delicate response to her appreciation of Asian calligraphy and in other works on display here there are soft floating leaves. In all, the exhibition, softened with pinks and greys, exudes quietness and serenity.
But if a retrospective reflects the ongoing development of an artist, it also makes an important statement about the personality of the presenting artist and this exhibition is no exception.
It tells us a great deal about Janet R. Boddy. In the most recent decade of her life she has undergone a shift in emphasis in which human illusion has emerged as a primary concern. Three factors in her life have been central in affecting this movement. Five times she has been close to death, once as a result of a horrific motorcar accident, and these experiences have challenged her vision. The commonalities of life with which the vast majority of us delude ourselves have become, for her, question marks that raise fundamental issues of direction and purpose. She is not simply compelled by the facts of being: she is profoundly impelled by the reality of becoming.
Significantly, in 1987, the year that marks the commencement point of this exhibition, Boddy met the international renowned Japanese Zen Buddhist Master Hogen. Without necessarily embracing Buddhism as her philosophy, she was deeply moved by the nature of this teacher who exhibited a calm quietness and sense of having transcended time. He was, she concluded, the most self-actualised person she had ever met. His influence on her life is made manifest in this exhibition.
The third major influence upon Boddy in recent years has been her regular participation in two local discussion groups, one devoted to sharing thoughts about painting and the other about literature. The latter has led to her engagement in writing poetry and short stories. But the importance of these groups for her has been what she refers to as the existential integrity, an interpersonal cohesion that has helped her clarify her thinking and intensify the quality of her emotional response.
Survey 2, as this retrospective is titled, is the product of a creative personality which is deeply committed to quality in both art and life. It is as attractive as it is profound and it will well reward those who participate in it as visitors.
Howard F. Dossor
Survey 2 is proudly presented by Art Approach – curated by Wendy Donald and supported by Nillumbik Shire Council