I’m not always sure that I’ve done the right thing – and my painting Phangna Bay fell into the negative side of that category – well, maybe, maybe not. The style – and I’ve no idea just what style it is, even though I’m aware of other artists working in this manner – goes back to small fish paintings I did in the 1980s. They were quite lovely – and easy to sell. There was a brightly coloured watercolour/gouache painting of fish and coral in the centre and a circle of subdued colour surrounded it. The circle was filled with coral shapes – but, being a bit on the contrary side, I left the coral shape white (well before I was aware of coral bleaching) and painted the background. At best, I could call the style a ‘negative space’ painting.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed this style of painting, but Phangna Bay was the first painting where I tended to miss my original background painting. It had been a slap dash kind of painting destined to be covered up, and it was only when I hung it on the loungeroom wall that I thought ‘Ah. Phangna Bay!’
Nobody commented on it, and as it was behind my head when watching TV from my chair I barely saw it myself. I waited for my next idea that would turn my abstract into a more meticulous memory work.
Phangna Bay is a wonderfully scenic area of Thailand where huge limestone karst formations pop straight out of the water. We had sailed there in Burramys and even taken our dinghy into a natural tunnel in one island – pitch dark and full of bats! As the tide lowered we could continue to the light at the end of the tunnel and rowed into a small lake in the centre of the island. That was in 1991 before the proliferation of tourist boats. Now, there are so many boats that some islands have been ‘closed’ for regeneration.
The germ of the next idea was there – my next layer would reference the islands, nautical charts and fill the bay with boats. My husband was not so happy about the dividers disappearing under the new layer of paint.
While I was drawing up my idea I popped the work in the hallway – the sun hit the small sections of gold and it looked much better than in the loungeroom – but my mind was made up.
It is not that I am in anyways displeased with my final work – it is just that I tend to miss what lays underneath.