CATALOGUE ESSAY | FLINDERS LANE GALLERY | AUGUST 2018
The poetic paintings of Caroline Rannersberger distil the dualities of the natural landscape; that it is immoveable yet in flux, timeless and palpably present. Based on Tasmania’s Bruny Island, the Adelaide-born artist envisions the land as a continuum of fleeting moments across time and space. Her layered compositions chronicle the movements of ancient mountains and sublime seas as symbolic constellations of transience and permanence.
Working from her studio overlooking the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Rannersberger hones her enduring interest in the notion of shifting landscapes through sensory interactions with the island and its waterways. Whilst painting – often en plein air – the artist immerses herself in the elusive experience of the land’s dissolution. She captures spectral topologies that are neither present nor absent; liminal landscapes caught in the act of disappearance.
Featuring large scale multi-panel artworks, ‘Oblivion’s Flow’ signals a new approach for Rannersberger as she draws on relief printing techniques developed while researching in the Northern Territory over ten years ago. Employing shellac-based inks and acrylics, she eliminates the printing press and rolls the paint directly on unstretched linen, using stencils to mask shapes. This process of layering visualises the landscape moving over millennia and leaving a mnemonic trace of its former anatomy. Each painted panel in her diptychs and quadriptychs is like a tectonic plate enacting the phases of a shifting terrain. Extending this idea, Rannersberger has also created experimental sculptures that adapt her paintings onto layered panels of glass, as if dissected into slices of landscape. Reminiscent of microscope slides or vertical shards of rock, the immersive works transport the viewer inside the landscape and we experience ‘the accumulation of time’. Negotiating the negative space between the panels, we attempt to ‘fill in the gaps’ – an idea inspired by Japanese sculptor Nobuhiro Nakanishi, who observes, ‘We draw from our physical experiences to fill in missing time and space, both ephemeral and vague’.
This series continues Rannersberger’s ongoing investigation into philosophical and geomorphological concepts around landscape. Highly symbolic hues of saffron signify a meditative state of mind – key in the making of this series – whilst also referencing the artist’s interest in alchemy, specifically the yellowing stage of alchemical transmutation called xanthosis, which is also the term for yellowish discoloration of degenerating bodily tissues. This metamorphosis of matter is a microcosm for the erosion and erection of land forms; strata of soil and rock struck through with fissures and striations from immense upheaval over time. The saffron also evokes the majesty of the landscape, alluding to the classic alchemical text Splendor Solis (1532-1535), where gold-tinged illustrations trace the death and rebirth of a king. Rannersberger’s golden landmasses sprout from silvery waters as if from a sea of cloud, bringing the celestial firmly down to earth.
Through their phantom forms and allusive palette, the paintings reference the rhizomatic model of Deleuzian philosophy, which opens up new ways of ‘seeing’ the land as a heterogenous space marked by interconnections that are active, ongoing and processual; yet invisible. The artist has blended this complex geophilosophy with poetry, namely The River by Goethe – from which she has taken the exhibition’s title. Goethe’s opening couplet, ‘Flow on, ye lays so loved, so fair / On to Oblivion’s ocean flow!’ resonates Rannersberger’s sentimental affiliation with the island whilst also incarnating Romantic intersections of the emotional, environmental and existential. ‘I’m interested in universal concepts associated with the idea of oblivion, but I also make location-specific connections,’ says the artist. ‘The D’Entrecasteaux Channel is basically the merging of the Derwent River with the infinite flow of water towards a kind of ‘oblivion’ of the southern reaches of Australia. Is it an unrequited love affair with the landscape?’.
Rannerberger has been a finalist in the Bay of Fires Art Award (2014), the Glover Prize (2013 & 2011), Hutchins Prize (2013), the Tattersalls Art Prize(2012), and the City of Albany Art Prize (2011), and has in the last five years been a finalist in the Fleurieu Art Prize, the ABN Amro Award, Fremantle Print Award, & the Alice Prize. She is the Director of the Bruny Island Foundation for the Arts and has works represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), and Artbank.