The Double Life of Clarice Beckett, oil on Linen, 75 cm x 110cm, 2014
Ultramarine, oil on linen, 100cm x 213 cm, 2014
A Parting of Ways (after Buvelot), oil on linen, 2 panels, each 110cm x 110 cm, 2014
Detatched Landscape (after Buvelot), oil on linen, 2 panels, each 75cm x 100 cm, 2014
Sullied Sublime, oil on linen, 75 cm x 110cm, 2014
Romance Novel (An artist’s book after Eugene von Guerard), acrylic paint on 30 sheets of perspex, 20cm x 20cm x 9cm, 2014
(Detail) Romance Novel (An artist’s book after Eugene von Guerard), acrylic paint on 30 sheets of perspex, 20cm x 20cm x 9cm, 2014
Melbourne Art Rooms [MARS] October, 2012
Futuristic plant specimens, floating in empty office spaces? Are these scenes the set of a speculative horror movie? For painter Saffron Newey, splintered schisms between reality and imagination inspire her to formulate a sense of unease and fatalistic awareness, of missed chances, strange slippages and converging temporal moments. If the morphed skeins of woven husks, which appear in this series of paintings, are the only live matter, postextinction, then we know the past is all that remains.
There is an insinuation that these plastic-surfaced plants are alive in an other-worldly way. Alive, but only in our imagination. Alive, but only as a reminder of a past when nature was abundant and grew by the light of the sun, rather than fluorescent office bulbs. To be honest, if these plant specimens are alive, we’re all in trouble. Autonomous and active, such species can only mean we have crossed a light-year threshold into the future.
Newey uses photography and computer software to manipulate her images, before painting them in oil on canvas. These saturated, virtual scenes of a simulated reality satisfy a natural curiosity about what is in store for us. Newey speaks of ‘double visions,’ the result of using photographic double exposures as a tool of her craft. The idea of the double steers the viewer towards a contemplation of our own image, the reflective power of the independent soul. The mismatch between life and antilife, which she so expertly explores, reminds us of our own culpabilities in the flickering drama of the image-sequences of our lives.
Twilight has long fascinated artists, philosophers and poets. It’s an in-between state, neither day nor night, in which spirits come alive and our senses awaken. The paradoxical sense of peace and anticipation that comes with this magic hour similarly draws us into Saffron Newey’s landscapes. With a nod to the Romantics, the deep shadows and impenetrable foliage are utterly enveloping, while strange flares and flashes of light illuminate the sky or play on the surface of the paintings like sunlight against a camera’s lens. As sites of transition between art of the past and the present, between photography and painting, and between day and night, these works open up intriguing realms in which anything seems possible.
Dr Melissa Miles Author of the 'The Burning Mirror: Photography in an Ambivalent Light'
It is nigh impossible to view these images without experiencing a strange frisson of fear, the sensation that something is not quite right about these captured moments – as though we are entering a region that is unwise to traverse. Newey is clearly a master of a noir-ish sensibility. There is a decidedly cinematic sensibility at play here, something akin to the opening of a David Lynch film. These feel like the moments captured just before some bizarre discovery. Our eyes have become attuned to the light of the full moon reflecting off the foliage. Leaves and blades of grass glow in the night-light. We are clearly on a journey here, but to what end remains an ominous mystery. Is it a pursuit or an escape? That, no doubt, depends on the viewer.