Dare we still dream? Can we let ourselves yearn for the luxury of wonder? ‘Sublime’ is an exhibition of paintings and drawings inspired by my love for the vast and extreme beauty of the Australian landscape. Each artwork is a doorway into a world, a threshold to beyond the representation of place.
I love a vast sky, not only for its visual appeal but for its power to offer an experience of sublimity. I am curious about how we encounter sublime moments and the reverence that emerges through relationship with the landscape and the deeper parts of ourselves. The question in art is not what is sublime but how do we access it? My sense is that we must make ourselves open to it all —the infinite, limitless, uncontrollable, incomprehensible forces of our lives. We must open the door to the light.
Amy Dynan, The weather builds in the silence, 100 x 150 cm paper size, Soft Pastel on Saunders Waterford hot pressed paper 425gsm, Image Ian Hobbs
At Stanley Street Gallery, 22 November – 16 December 2023, Amy Dynan invites the sense of wonder from the sublime aspects of nature into her artworks. Her exhibition, titled Sublime, is inspired by the vast landscape, sweeping clouds and the infinite horizon are captured and rendered assessable for audiences through oil on canvas and pastel on paper.
The artist muses, “Dare we still let ourselves yearn for the luxury of wonder?”, posing each artwork as a doorway into a world, a threshold beyond the representation of place. In Immanuel Kant’s essay, Critique of Judgment (1790), he reflects on the boundlessness of the sublime, extending past forms of beauty that can be recognised. Dynan goes on to explore historical reference arcs of the sublime through the Romantic, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist periods; J W Turner’s exuberant topographies that combine energetic, centrifugal movement and distortions of scale and Arthur Streeton’s later landscape paintings employing looser brushwork while evoking a distinct emotional engagement with place.
“For me, the question in art is not what is sublime but how do we access it? My sense is that we must make ourselves open to it all—the infinite, limitless, uncontrollable, incomprehensible forces of our lives. We must open the door for the light.”
In her artworks, Dynan captures the boundlessness of a vast sky, exploring her relationship with her subject matter and how we can access it to, critically, care for the environment in an era of ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ natural disasters. Reframing and exploring aesthetic perspectives that evoke the sublime, activating a shift in focus to invite emotional atmospheres of wonderment and majesty. As such, hopefully, the awe and wonder of being nature – presented in an inner-city Sydney gallery – can cause a shift in behaviours.
Dynan has been working on Sublime intensely after returning from her recent travels across New York, England, and France. It was her return to Australia that invited an emotional engagement with her homeland, compelled to explore the colours and environment of familiar landscapes.
Using pastels and oils, the artist’s aesthetic combines aspects of realism and abstract sensibilities, continuing a transition in material practice and process, away from a monochromatic palette, toward colour. Here, Dynan’s venture in oil paints has allowed for an exaggeration of natural tones to evoke a sense of power and drama. She boldly creates works in one sitting, using photographic references and memories for her compositions; the artworks are rendered by fingers and sponges – moving pigment across the surface in broad, sweeping gestures.
“My drawing practice explores the fluidity between psychological and spiritual shifts in consciousness, something occurring as a result of the repetition and routine of the process. Through the layers and repetition, I slip into an alternate state of mind, a giving into the work as it becomes its own.”
This series has also coincided with a period of change, loss, and letting go, the studio becoming a site to process these shifts. As such, the boundlessness of the sublime offers an entry point to the environment, and also a place of creativity and human emotion – the artworks invite their own sense of reflection and evoke all forms of connection. As the audience, we dip into the sublime of both nature and art, two places of constant transition that are in their spirit filled with infinite possibility, though only mirrored in our perception.
Dynan concludes, “To be alive is a magnificent, messy, sensory overload and how lucky we are to feel it fully. It is in this spirit that I present these works with heartfelt thanks.”
Written by Emma-Kate Wilson
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