Confronted, Rita Hall

As an artist I have always attempted to interpret the world around me in a visual way, to make sense of it, to find my own way in its complexity and variation. I take pleasure in being able to communicate, through my art practice, new ways of seeing the familiar and sometimes the odd. For me there is a great joy in being able to simply see what is there and to express that within the traditions of art. However this new body of work has come from an entirely different source. True, the outcome is still a visual representation of the real, but the drama within the subject and techniques came from a deep personal turmoil.

Let me explain; From living a comfortably creative life in the familiar Adelaide Hills for most of my life, to attempting a sea change in a seriously different environment, I somehow erupted my sense of equilibrium and self. I became a displaced person. In a rush to discover new adventures, experiences, landscapes and to become involved in a new society, I abandoned all that was previously taken for granted. I felt that being a senior artist did not mean becoming a senior retired person and yet I found myself being swept away from my beloved life into an alienated one. At once I needed to be quieter, both in my work and my ideas, I was out of place, out of time and surprised at the intensity of the rupture. I was confronted by the present, the attitudes of aging, being older amidst a contented community of older retirees, who seemed happy to live in a lovely place and become volunteers to help each other. This had not been my intention and I railed against it from the first understanding that this was to be my new destiny, but my work was as important to me as ever.

How else to resolve the dilemma then but through my work. It took a year to find the way to do so, but with kindness from those around me, and encouragement, I began again. Gently and with respect I asked to draw the people, those in the nursing homes, in the hobby art groups, some of the neighbours, friends, the Centre for Positive Aging. Most agreed and I was able to construct a folio of lively pen and ink drawings of these people. Later I began again to experiment with some new printmaking methods, always a challenge, looking for a way to express the slippery fleeting emotions inherent in the faces of the wonderful characters I had come across. The work had to have substance, to somehow explain the shock of looking at the world from a new perspective. Travel, of course does this, but I also needed to communicate this experience, that’s what I do. It can be confronting, as it must be, even for me but somehow it all seemed too dark.

Writer, Bill ‘Swampy’ Marsh came around one day and in a moment of inspired creativity became compelled to add his quirky captions to my images. Suddenly they became resolved with all the grace, humanity, humour and wit of all I had intended. Finally, in early 2013 the exhibition was completed and I am now back in the Adelaide Hills, with a new understanding about what my life is all about. Please just look at my work, and know it has been important to share it with you.

Rita Hall, 2013

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