Gene A’Hern

Blue Mountains-based artist Gene A'Hern – featured as Artist Profile's Discovery artist in Issue 39 – details the frustrations and triumphs that have fuelled her current practice.

Before I was diagnosed with dyslexia, my art-making process reflected my frustration and personal struggle with self-misunderstanding. My means of curbing my frustration was to try to control the art-making process. I previously worked on creating single pieces that had a specific outcome, using a single medium. These early paintings came from my sketchbook – it was the springboard into my painting.

Upon discovering my dyslexia and understanding how it affects my vision, I became cognisant of the reasons behind my previous frustrations with depth perception. Now, rather than fear it, I have allowed the process of abstraction to become not only a catalyst for my work, but also a mantel for myself as an artist.I began permitting my frustration to lead the paintbrush instead of my own ideals and wishes. This was a way for me to accept my dyslexia. My paintings aren’t of the world I wish I knew, but of the world I truly know.

Even after investing in dyslexic glasses, I choose not to use them when I paint. The paintings would be interpretations of a reality that is not my own. Rather, I prefer to paint with honesty, uncertainty and vulnerability. Each stroke on the canvas directs me to another series of questions.

A term that I refer to when describing my painting method and building of the picture plane, is the concept of automatism – a response that reflects the subconscious rather than the conscious; it is not crafted to perfection by the ideals of my consciousness, but rather controlled instinctively. Disengaging from my conscious mind and removing the safety net of my sketchbook has been integral to my practice.

My method of making ‘Ezekiel’ demonstrates this. The wheels that emerged in the work were not anticipated, but rather an uncontrolled reflection of recent meditations from the Book of Ezekiel. As I painted ‘Ezekiel 2’ the decisions that transformed this painting into what it became overflowed from an internal dialogue and automatic response to the real world that I live in and the spiritual experiences that I have.

At the National Art School, I was given the choice between painting and printmaking. As I was introduced to each new method of printing, my mind would travel down tangents of new possibility and excitement. While I enjoyed printmaking, I was impatient and frustrated with the process of rolling the ink, blotting the paper, then placing it on the press or waiting for the acid bath. My printmaking teacher found my process messy and chaotic, and while I felt torn between both printing and painting, painting was more satisfying to my impulsive instincts. As this process transforms over time, the chance of returning to printmaking may open up, but for now I have chosen to pursue the canvas.

Image: Ezekiel 2, 2017, acrylic, spray paint, oil, charcoal, pastel on canvas, 124 x 184 cm, courtesy the artist and A Shot Above Photography & Imaging

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