It must be difficult for visual artists who live in Tasmania to not be affected by the spectacular natural environment that surrounds them. Maybe it’s something in the air, or perhaps it’s carried on the wild roaring forties – westerly winds that travel around the globe at 40° south. There seems a freshness and originality in much of the art that has emerged in recent years from our southernmost state, and the work of Caroline Rannersberger is no exception.
Rannersberger lives on Bruny Island off the south east coast of Tasmania. Geologically Bruny is actually comprised of two landmasses, joined by a narrow sandy stretch of land called an isthmus. Rannersberger says that from the north-west facing windows of her studio, she can see out to the water and the sweep of land that runs to meet it. She has lived on Bruny for the past five years, observing the terrain and seascape, allowing the experience of it to flow through her and into the paintings she creates. A friend once told me the weather in this part of the world is more accurately described as an event, and these recent works by Rannersberger contain some very eventful moments.
Rannersberger does not adhere to pictorial conventions associated with traditions of representing the landscape. Instead she seeks to engender a tripartite relationship between the painter, the painted, and the process of painting – meaning that each is equal in importance to the final outcome. Each work begins with direct experience, drawing and painting within the landscape itself and actively allowing the elements of nature to affect the resulting marks. Many of her works at some stage in their long process of evolution have been buffeted by wind, rain, sand and dirt – sometimes even insects have left their microscopic impressions on her surfaces.
Back in the shelter of her studio Rannersberger lets the process of art making drive the resulting imagery. She slowly builds up layers of inks, acrylics and pigments mixed with various mediums, and allows these materials to interact. Like the physical, chemical and biological forces that shape the earth’s surface, or its geomorphology, Rannersberger’s works are the result of sometimes unpredictable, dynamic processes that her materials engender when they collide on the picture plane.
Her layered way of building up the works result in highly textured surfaces. Rich in pentimento, the artist balances areas of density with transparency. The effect in some paintings is almost opalescent, like looking through a crystal and catching flashes of submerged colours and shapes. Forms emerge and recede, and the horizon line rises and falls in panels, unsettling a clear reading of the image. This encourages the viewer to consider each artwork less as a landscape view, more as an object shaped by experiential encounters and elemental forces of nature.
Soaked in colour, Rannersberger evokes the deep blues and purples of the ocean, along with yellows and ochres, and algae greens readily found in the artist’s southern coastal region. Linear striations scarify her surfaces and are cast in rich hues. Colour and texture dominate, and this focus tips the work into more formally abstract territory.
Essay by Marguerite Brown MAArtCur 2016
Rannersberger works in a range of environments, from the vast and ancient expanses of the Northern Territory to the Antarctic chill of Southern Tasmania. Throughout, an intention to address the landscape as an ambiguous site of infinite arrival has been maintained. Her images act to open up a temporal space within the physical reality of a location, to intersect history, place and subjective experience.
Rannerberger's work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT), and Artbank. She was a finalist in the 2016 Glover Prize, the 2016 Blake Prize, 2015 Lloyd Rees Prize, the 2016 2014 Bay of Fires Art Award, the 2013 Glover Prize and Hutchins Prize, the 2012 Tattersalls Art Prize, Brisbane, the 2011 Glover prize and the 2011 City of Albany Art Prize, 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. Rannersberger was recently curated in to a group show held at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery titled 'Sublime Point,' which featured 25 leading painters from across the country including Imants Tillers and Stephen Bush. In January 2016, Rannersberger curated Bruny Island: EDGE2 Isthmus as a part of MONA's MOFO festival in Hobart. Rannersberger says of the project "The EDGE2 Isthmus group has produced a wide range of works that speak directly to the nature of the Isthmus, forging both conceptual and aesthetic connections between visual arts, contemporary music and the geomorphology of the Bruny Island Neck. MOFO has given us a wonderful opportunity to present an event that brings out the best in our own region: the people and the land of Bruny Island and Southern Tasmania."