Michaye Boulter: Towards Light

18 November - 10 December 2022

Exhibition Text

The deeply evocative paintings of Michaye Boulter reflect a lifetime spent on and around the ocean, exploring the ways we summon memories of place as markers of our ever-morphing identity. From her home on Bruny Island to Recherche Bay, the otherworldly landscapes of Southern Tasmania are conduits for Boulter to explore the representational and abstract qualities of atmosphere, with all its somatic and ontological energy.


Boulter’s latest series of paintings on linen, board and steel chronicle a metaphysical journey, a daydream, stretching across space and time to an imaginary destination – a place of reverie. The artist explains, “For me, reverie is the mind untethered at play. In the quiet solitude of the places I love, I am free to wander and wonder, what hidden colours and visions emerge?  What memories, what ineffable realisations sustain me?” Certain Tasmanian landscapes, so fond and familiar, are her departure point to entering into a liminal state where the senses are sharpened and the world feels intensely evocative. This concept of ‘departure’ encapsulates the emotional valency of the works – as a feeling of being comforted by and embedded in place whilst harbouring a yearning to leave, a longing for the unknown.


The tiny details of Boulter’s natural surroundings are accented in this series – elongated grasses graceful in their sway, mesmeric rock bed mosaics, dense bush curtained in mystery, and ensembles of ancient trees on the borderline between land and sea. Orchestrated yet wild, these compositions radiate from within; an inexplicable glow that feels both fleeting and forever. “Nestling myself amid the smell of wet grass and earth, the lure of light is inescapable”, reflects Boulter. “In the fading day, bush colours intensify, the low light spills across the water and thickens over distant land. A world disappears. A portal opens to another shore, another time.”


Still waters and symphonic trees are silhouetted against ethereal skies in an eternal unfolding. As if by gravity, we are pulled towards the ubiquitous horizon, engulfed by the mesmerising emptiness in between. It is from within this void – free from spatial and temporal strictures – that we glimpse scintillating interplays of the finite self and the endless ocean, tethering us to the continuum of existence. Every now and then the trees whisper and the sea sighs, exhaling an eternal breath resounding truths too quiet to hear, too profound to penetrate. The emotional sincerity of Boulter’s subject shimmers against the virtuosity of her brushwork. ‘Towards Light’ sees the artist continue to hone her painting techniques developed over many years. Boulter works patiently and intuitively, applying countless layers of oil like luminous veils that both reveal and conceal the landscape, allowing the work and ideas to build slowly, symbiotically. The foreground bush is captured in veneers of thin paint, drawing out shades of sienna, light cadmium orange, warm reds and pinks, while pale grey skies are conjured via layers of ultramarine and sienna. The perspective, here, has altered with a synthesis of near and far.


Alongside paintings on linen and hand beaten steel (the latter an ongoing collaboration with Gerhard Mausz), ‘Towards Light’ presents smaller works on board for the very first time. Rendered with a greater range of colour, these experimental and experiential paintings are like fragments, portals, stages for ideas and imaginings freely executed. They are a gathering of transient moments, micro worlds at once becoming and dissolving. Harnessing the traditions of the miniature, these new works are personal and precious to Boulter. She tells us, “I recall the viewfinder I had as a child. Looking into its binocular shape was a slide show of another world. Looking inwards, ever deeper, was paradoxically intimate and expansive. It is a sensation I try to emulate in my work – that of the boundless stretch of the world as a metaphor for the mind.”


‘Towards Light’ is an invitation into Boulter’s intimate experiences of self and landscape, beckoning us to slow down, see, listen, reflect, and engage in our world’s quiet songs of enchantment.


Elli Walsh
Deputy Editor, Artist Profile

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