The rarely captured, mysterious and lush landscapes of the border ranges forests are the subject of a series of paintings by Lee Wise, featured in a solo exhibition at Retrospect Galleries, Byron Bay.
Lee Wise, who was born in England, offers an exquisite vision of the Australia rainforests around his home (since 2008) at the base of Mt Tambourine.
Unlike earlier Australian landscapes by English artists which superimposed a European sensibility on the environment, Wise has developed his painting style in dialogue with the Australian bush.
“I’ve grown as an artist in this environment, this is where I live and work and I look at this view every day,” explains Wise.
Wise is a unique talent in that his landscapes have the intimacy and feel of portraiture, these are pictures of the forest and the mountains in changing moods.
“His eye for the distinctive form of the local environment creates artworks which celebrate this region in all its wonder and beauty,” enthuses gallery owner Bree Delian.
While Wise has received recognition for his portraits (as a finalist in the Archibald and runner up for the Moran Portrait Prize in 2015), In The Mist features his landscapes. It is no surprise that the landscapes have a quality of portraiture. “In my paintings I’m showing the viewer how I see the natural beauty that surrounds my home,” Wise shares.
“I like the way the contrast seems to diminish with distance, creating a depth by defined layers of trees and mountains, sometimes isolating subjects in the foreground,” describes Wise.
The changing moods of weather are as much a focus of the paintings as the landscape itself: “I find these scenes eerily beautiful and sometimes surreal, as they mysteriously transform the landscape into something either ominous and gloomy or calm and introspective,” he says.
The mist-shrouded images are evocative of Asian traditions of landscape painting as a focus of beauty but their detailed foliage and complex layering of perspective also have a distinctly modern Australian feel.
In The Mist will be on show at Retrospect Galleries, 52 Jonson Street, Byron Bay, August 31 – September 13.