Chris Ramsey paints a sensory question in which the answer is a positive emotional response. I only recently met Chris and her enthusiasm for portraying feeling through painting has inspired me. I believe that there is not enough contemporary art that evokes emotion and if so even less which provides you with warmth and tranquillity. Chris’ work offers you an escape into a world of peaceful scenery and skyscape that evokes freedom. Her impressionist style and soft brush strokes depict an environment which is unrestrained by distinct line. Many of these landscapes are from Canberra and its surrounding regions, where Chris has grown up bush walking and swimming.
Chris is currently completing her Honours in Painting. I asked her a few questions when we sat down for a chat.
What I found beautiful about your work is the softness of light and the luminous colours within your scenes. Why have you chosen landscape painting to convey emotion?
I’ve lived in Canberra for most of my life. A lot of my happy childhood memories are entwined with being outdoors in the local landscape with my family; walking up Mount Ainslie, fishing down at the Cotter River, picnicking at the Lake. I feel both a kinship and spiritual connection to this land and place. My sense of self and emotional well being is embedded in the natural world and I express that through my painting. Nature has a way of ‘grounding’ me when I feel disconnected from the world. Being outdoors puts things into perspective again. The natural world has a rejuvenating power that I need to tap into on a regular basis.
There is such a huge history of landscape painting, what inspired you to use the impressionist style in contemporary art?
My love of the Impressionist movement stems from a shared desire with that genre to paint not what I see when I look at the landscape, but what I feel. My emotional response, my impression of the experience of being present with nature.
We have spoken about how many of the landscapes you have chosen are ones in which you have experienced yourself around Canberra. Do you go to these places to paint?
I’ve just started painting outside, “plein air”. I previously worked exclusively from my photos, but I recently had a bit of an epiphany. My painting motivation comes from an immediate emotional response to being, and seeing visual stimuli. Instead of taking photos of the scene that has lifted my heart and motivated me to paint, I’ve cut out the middle man and started working directly from life without using photographs. By painting on site, I think the resulting works are freer, spontaneous and more in keeping with what I want to say artistically.
I admire your high key painting “Light and Air” as your tonal skies evoke a feeling of freedom and weightlessness. Is your work heading more in that direction now?
There is so much darkness and negativity in the world today. It’s important to me to make paintings that are up-lifting, paintings that people want to bring into their lives.
Sian Watson in Conversation with Chris Ramsey