Joy Lea Art

Abstractions of the Australian Landscape


I am Joy Elizabeth Lea and I am an intuitive painter who works in oils, acrylic and mixed media. Studies I have completed include a Diploma of Applied Science (RMIT) in 1978 as well as a Bachelor of Arts at Swinburne University (1996) followed by a Diploma of Visual Arts at Box Hill Institute and I have recently completed a Master of Visual Arts at Monash University (2009).

Working life has included teaching in both a primary and a secondary level as an Art and Textiles Teacher. I have participated in many group exhibitions, have had a recent solo exhibition and have been a successful applicant for a number of Art prizes.

Winning the Arc Yinnar drawing prize (2006) was a great achievement as was the winning of First prize for the Contemporary Art Society of Victoria Annual Exhibition in 2004 and again in 2009. A ‘Highly Commended’ certificate was awarded for a large work in oil for Expressions Exhibition in 2005 and a fourth prize was awarded in 2010 for the
Annual Contemporary Art Society Exhibition.

My most recent successful solo exhibition ‘
Wild Places - Forest and Desert’, was at the Cambridge Gallery and Studio in Abbotsford in Victoria. The works exhibited can be viewed on my web gallery.

Much of my work is concerned with nature, with wild forests and the intricacies within natural habitats that constitute the web of life inhabiting our planet. Forests, landscapes, all the natural phenomena inform my art practice. An ever shrinking and fast disappearing world of nature is the world with which we are faced and the world that our children will inherit.

Informing my work is a lifetime of interactions with nature. A childhood spent living in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, a time when there was one family telephone, one family television, no computer, no Internet, or computer games and no mobile phones. Holidays and after school times were spent in the outdoors. An excerpt taken from journals of childhood recollections contains the following words, ‘Windy evenings being tossed around whilst sitting in the old willow tree growing in our back garden, weekends spent in gumboots trying to catch tadpoles in the creek and climbing the old gum trees which were then so abundant’. Today, most of the trees have been chopped down to make way for development and the creeks have been re routed through large underground pipes. Just as I sat in the bush as a child, perhaps up in the trunk of a tree, I now walk through the landscape and then sit in the bush and paint what I see and feel around me, sometimes experimenting with local earth, sticks, mud and plants.

A connection to nature and to land has been with me throughout adolescence and accompanies me throughout the days of my life. The landscape offers a sense of spiritual refuge and regeneration; it is a place of refuge from the clatter of the contemporary world of technology. The wild forests of mountain ash gums, which surround the town of Warburton, the native Kunzia ti tree that grow thickly in forests behind our home on steep land that was cleared for its timber and mined for gold a century ago. The breathtaking beauty of this landscape as well as the dirty politics of logging and land exploitation has influenced my work.

My interactions with the landscape has widened, as travel to more remote areas of Australia has become a reality and a source of inspiration for my art practice.
Central Australia with its wild landscape of colour and form to be found in ancient riverbeds and river gums, rock formations and scrubby forests contribute to the ‘oeuvre’ of my work. These areas are rich in history, local narrative and folklore and have provided a rich source of inspiration. Being able to spend many hours and days alone wandering in isolated areas of the bush viewing both flora and fauna at close range contributes to a communion with nature that is a panacea for my soul.

When working I focus on capturing perceptions of the landscape, attempting to merge inner emotional responses to that of the landscape. This subjective response to form, space, colour and texture provides meaning and gives life to my work. Inner responses capture the movement and intensity of the landscape. Emotional responses may convey meaning and intensity in something as humble as the native summer grasses of Warburton, to the rough barked ti tree and the giant gums swept by wild winter winds. Working as I do immersed in nature I endeavour to capture an intense inner emotional response.

Impressions of nature intermingle with the day-to-day life of family and life in a contemporary world. Line, texture form and colour are present everywhere and in everything I come into contact with each day. I live in a contemporary world but endeavour to combine the past with the present and the future.

Accompanying the development of my art practice which is informed daily by nature and its moods is my acute awareness of the environmental degradation in so many areas where I work and I find myself becoming an activist for the rights of nature and the necessity of the natural world for mankind’s survival. Survival of nature and the survival of mankind are inextricably intertwined.

Over a number of seasons I have painted in ancient places that were untouched by mankind, as historically there was no monetary gain to be had from exploitation. Places such as deserts and naturally salty areas such as the salt mound near the Finke River in Central Australia in the Northern Territory. A wild and untouched place, perhaps as it was thousands of years ago. A place from which the salt of the ancient seabed, which once existed here, still oozes to the surfaces day after day, decade after decade.millennium after millennium.

Everywhere I look I am faced with an appropriated landscape; what was once pristine bushland is now a vast city spewing out waste into the air, befouling the rivers, filling the seas with rubbish. Man the consummate consumer and destroyer can conversely be man the caretaker and nurturer of the earth. Evidence of appropriation began with human beings, the loss of trees and animal habitat causing the rise of the water table with its accompanying salination leading to eventual desertification of the land. Manmade paraphernalia exists in the wild lands where habitation has been abandoned. Wire, Galvanised iron, fencing wire tangled in rivers, caught in tree roots and swift flowing rivers swollen by winter rains carry human detrititus down stream and out to the vast ocean.

Wire has become a motif in recent work, wire embedded into the landscape, wire to keep the livestock in and to keep the wildlife out. Wire to protect settlers and farmers from the wild creatures of the night and from the ever-encroaching jungles, which seek to reclaim nature from the new inhabitants. The tangle of wire and evidence of farming remains years after the inhabitants have moved out.

Working with oils and mixed media I respond to the myriad of textures and lines in nature, colours of bark and soil, form in rocks and leaves. Reflected in my work are inner responses to nature in its many forms. The vicissitudes of the natural landscape offer a metaphor for the internal landscape of the human condition and an often-forceful reminder that we are mortal, that all of life is fragile and precious and needs to be nurtured. Nature is the ultimate ‘memento mori’ for mankind.