My new body of work, a series of multiple panel oil paintings on linen, is autobiographical and is a response to my experiences in the land. It is also responding to my deeply felt concerns for the environment, in particular global warming, hence the title MELT.
One event in particular was a trigger for these works. Whilst painting in my Bruny Island studio, looking out onto the mountains across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and reflecting on the geomorphological upheaval that has shaped this magnificent landscape over millennia, I was reminded of a near tragic mountain climbing event when I was a teenager in Austria. I was traversing a glacier in the Austrian Alps with friends when my companion fell through a snow bridge into a crevasse. Glacial crevasses can be deadly, almost the like the jaws of a flowing river of ice; a beast that swallows people whole. My friend managed to climb out and survived, but after all these years, I am still feeling that force and sensation through the environment, the sheer impact of that experience. As Tim Martain observed in a recent interview, “Rannersberger’s paintings still reflect that sense of drama, upheaval and power in the landscape. Even in her more serene works, there remains a sense of awe and imposing structure”.
Much of my earlier work dealt with notions of the sublime, awe-inspiring sensations and forces of nature, formed many years ago as I was growing up in the Austrian Alps. But sadly, it isn’t just my own vulnerability now. Reflecting on my time as a student in Austria, nearly forty years ago, scientists were already measuring the rate of glacial melt. Now on Bruny Island, I look across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel at the body of water, and wonder how life will be with rising sea levels. I am increasingly concerned with the vulnerability of the environment itself, and am aware that there are parts of the land that may be under water in the not too distant future, particularly if the glacial melt continues at such a rapid rate, and sea levels continue to rise.
I have spent much time ruminating and revisiting such thoughts through the painting processes over the year that have culminated in this exhibition. My life experiences have shaped this new work. I like to think that I am not at the centre of my art making. There is a certain dissolution of my self into the work and into the environment; and then the landscape into me. The result is a picture of Bruny Island in my mind’s eye; a fusion between the Tyrolean Alps and the Tasmanian wilderness. Fragile, vulnerable, ever changing, but still full of force. As author Nicolas Rothwell observed of my practice many years ago, “We cannot know what art will survive our time; we are in our time, and bear its energies and its perspectives inside our words and thoughts. But we can consult that internal compass that listens when art speaks; we can tune our minds to what we see, and to the marriage of our imagination with what lies before us in the world. In these works there is little of the artist’s will, or self: the maker is a channel”.
Caroline Rannersberger, 2021