In a lifetime devoted to art making art Elisabeth Cummings is being celebrated with a retrospective exhibition that features a selection of sixty paintings, prints and ceramics from her opus of the past fifty years.
After her love of painting was first discovered in childrens art classes run by the painter Vida Lahey in Brisbane, Cummings went on to study at the National Art School in Sydney from 1953-57. Formative influences included her teachers Lyndon Dadswell, and Godfrey Miller and exhibitions of interior paintings by Grace Cossington Smith and abstracts of Ralph Balson. The talented young artist won the NSW Travelling Art Scholarship in 1958 and headed overseas to Italy where she based herself in Florence, studying and painting in Europe for a decade before returning to live in Sydney. As an invetrate traveller she has studied the work of many artists in museums abroad, first absorbing the influence of the European painters Bonnard and Vuillard, Cezanne and Matisse and later the work by the Abstract Expressionist painters notably Willem de Kooning and Ashile Gorky in America and later Frank Auerbach in London. On her return she grounded herself in the bush, building a studio at Wedderburn in 1971 and reconnecting with her interest in painting by her contemporaries, Aboriginal artists and the philosophy and work of Ian Fairweather.
Elisabeth Cummings is highly regarded in the Australian art world and is rightly celebrated for her inventive vision, fluency of textural brushwork and her painterly ability to effortlessly flex between the forms of abstraction and figuration. “It’s the ineffable that we try to touch” she says”. I love that quote by Fairweather ‘Painting to me is something of a tightrope act; it is between representation and the other thing – whatever that is. It’s difficult to keep one’s balance.’”
The retrospective exhibition will includes a range of subject matter; abstracts, landscapes, still lifes and studio interiors , especially those painted at her studio at Wedderburn on the outskirts of Sydney. Printmaking has also been important for Cummings and she has worked in monoprinting and etching, collaborating with master printer Michael Kempson Cicada Press at the University of NSW for a decade.
The exhibition will coincide with the launch of a full colour monograph on her work with an introduction by John McDonald, preface by Terence Maloon, Director ANU Drill Hall Gallery and appreciations by a range of writers, Michael Kempson, Anna Johnson, Guy Warren, plus an interview with the artist by Sioux Garside, the independent curator of the retrospective.
The exhibition is being toured jointly by King Street Gallery on William Sydney and the Drill Hall Gallery ANU Canberra.