Hopes and fears

 • Jo Darbyshire’s lockdown was the catalyst for the diptych Bluetongue 

THE conflicting emotions of lockdown are beautifully documented by Fremantle artist Jo Darbyshire in her latest exhibition Fennel and Crow – The Long Quiet.

During her one hour of exercise a day, Darbyshire sought refuge in the abandoned golf courses and industrial areas around Fremantle, as well as nearby Booyeembara Park, which has serpentine trails, open space and bushland.

Her stunning oil paintings have strong colours and are slightly abstract, reflecting the flora she found on her lockdown rambles.

She became particularly enamoured with fennel.

“The Italians brought finocchio to Fremantle – Fennel is an introduced species in Australia (like many of us),” Darbyshire says.

“Its very ordinariness ensures its anonymity, and its survival. 

“Traditionally it is prized for its healing properties; fennel seed oil activates the immune system and is a preventative for influenza (a perfect symbol during the pandemic). 

“Fennel is also extraordinary because it contains all generations at once – it holds the old seeds high, while new growth springs forward.”

Although quite rich in colour, there is a delicate quality to the paintings in Fennel and Crow, hinting at the precariousness of life during the pandemic.

Redgum Ocean 

Amidst the beautiful landscapes and sunsets, there is a solitary crow perched on a rocky outcrop, peering over the land, hinting at some distant omen.

“I tried to capture the sense of peace, stillness but also the foreboding that many people felt at that time,” Darbyshire says.

Darbyshire says she is inspired by abstract artists like the American Ross Blechner, and Australian’s Tim Maguire and Jon Cattapan. 

Specialising in oils and large-scale works, she has become known for her paintings of underwater worlds including the reefs around Rottnest.

Fennel and Crow – The Long Quiet is at WA Art Collective’s gallery in Cathedral Square in the Perth CBD.

The not-for-profit Collective was formed in 2013 and is run by artists, often to the benefit of their careers.

Members’ works are displayed at the Cathedral Square gallery, at international fairs including Singapore Art Fair and Sydney Contemporary, partner art spaces like Holmes à Court Gallery, and regional art galleries in Geraldton and Bunbury.

The Collective also record interviews with artists for posterity, which are available on their website, and publish artist monographs.

Fennel and Crow – The Long Quiet is on from August 21 – September 18. For more details 

By STEPHEN POLLOCK

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