ABOUT MY WORK
I live near Grafton, in Northern NSW and have my studio at Seelands, right beside the Clarence River. I am deeply influenced by my connection with, and experiences of the riparian landscapes of the rivers and streams where I live. In my art practice I explore these landscapes through drawing, mixed media and installation and have developed a personal sense of kinship with particular Trees. Each visit enables a deeper learning of the subject. In the field I make ‘Tree portraits’ that are literally imbued with the waters and sediments of the River.
A portrait comes into being as a large-scale drawing on a length of paper that varies from 2.5 to 4 metres. The fragility and strength of the paper substrate is central to my process of immersing drawings in the River. The 356gsm Arches paper is strong and malleable in the River for a limited period. As a plant-based product it absorbs the River sediment, minerals, clay and accidental mud stains. This process changes the qualities of the pencil and gouache markings I make in the studio and infuses them into the paper surface (much like etching does). I understand this to-and-fro process of experimentation and play as a collaboration with the River.
Hung vertically in the gallery, the towering scale of these large drawings shifts the viewer’s experience. They must tilt their head up to see the canopy and down to see the roots, just as they would in the landscape. The immensity of each Tree and the magnificence of the River are literally and experientially embedded into the drawings to remind us of our place in the world.
For me, this is beauty in the true sense of the word – these gnarled, twisted, old-growth Trees are living evidence of strength, endurance and adaptation to their environment. They exist in a rich riparian landscape, a meeting of river and land, a flourishing place between. I want to share my joy of these huge old Trees and their vital connection to the River I love, in the hope it will increase appreciation of and respect for riparian landscapes.
Rochelle Summerfield is a multidisciplinary artist working with drawing, paint, collage, printmedia and installation. Her practice is deeply influenced by her connections and experiences with her local rivers and habitat in Northern NSW. Her large scale ‘Tree portraits’ (2m-4m) explore the interconnectedness of Rivers and Trees and working in the field and studio, she imbues her papers with the waters and sediments of the River.
Rochelle received her Master of Research and Bachelor (First Class Honours) of Visual Arts from Southern Cross University, Lismore, where she trained in contemporary printmaking and drawing. Her work has been acquired by numerous public and private collections, including the National Library Permanent Collection, State Library of Victoria Collection, RMIT Gallery Melbourne and others.
She has exhibited in notable exhibitions including ‘Water: presence & absence’ curator Rilka Oakley, Blue Mountains City Art Gallery (Dec 22-Jan 23) ‘Irreverent Matter’ Hazelhurst Arts Centre (2021), the Windmill Trust Scholarship 20th Anniversary Retrospective at Murray Art Museum, Albury (2017) and a public art video projection during ‘Artstate’ Lismore (2017) and her work was selected for the nationally touring ‘As Far As The Eye Can See’, curated by Rilka Oakley of Blue Mountains City Art Gallery. Rochelle has had many national solo shows including ‘Crossroads’ (2019-2022) at the Western Plains Cultural Centre as part of the Homeground project, in 2017 ‘A Wayfarer on the Nepean’, at Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Sydney and most recently at Grafton Regional Gallery ‘On the River’s edge we meet’ during April-June, 2023.
Rochelle was awarded overall winner of the 2017 Moreton Bay Region Art Awards, Qld. She has received support from various grants like the NSW Artists’ Grant (2019, 2016) and the NSW Arts Restart and Arts NR for ‘Hopeful Disruptions: Caring for Birrinba (Clarence River)’ an onsite environmental project with art exhibitions. Upcoming, Rochelle has been selected for the George’s River Artist in Residency in Sydney, 22 Jan- 3 March 2024.