A dramatic thunderstorm with billowing clouds and forked lightning breaks across the plains. As the Lone Ranger and Tonto ride away from the storm, wild horses gallop and fight excitedly in the background. Elsewhere, a furtive and grinning spotted dog sports a mask and tattoos. Welcome to the intriguing world of Western Song, an exhibition which aims to inspire, amuse and mesmerise, with paintings by Rockhampton artist Sue Smith and sculptures by Gladstone region artist Margaret Worthington.
Although the days of an untamed frontier are long gone, the stockman’s or cowboy’s life remains an inspiration for many, including Sue Smith, whose treatment of the western theme mixes humour and the surreal with sober concerns about human vulnerability. In Unchartered waters, boys in a boat paddle across a flooded town; and in All my war is done, peace doves whirl around a cowboy who has laid down his guns.
Sue’s lively and colourful acrylic paintings fuse realism with contemporary abstraction and Pop Art influences. Her work captures the heat and colour and vast horizons of the Australian Outback, and sometimes the iconic imagery of Western films and TV series. Dusty red plains and ancient ranges contrast with birds, billabongs and big rains, and our eyes are drawn to riders, dogs and cattle, roundups, sunsets and cinema stars (Clint Eastwood features in one work).
Animals, birds and land environments are also major artistic subjects for watercolourist, sculptor and designer Margaret Worthington. Margaret’s five dog sculptures created for this exhibition compliment the playfulness of some of Sue’s painting and are inspired by the humorous characters of dogs which Margaret and her partner and artistic collaborator Clive Rouse have owned or known over the years. Clive has assisted Margaret with the fabrication of the dog sculptures, which were carved in urethane foam, covered in fibreglass, sanded, and then finished by Margaret with acrylic paint.
Sue Smith lives and works in Rockhampton, central Queensland. Her work is held in the collections of the Outback Regional Gallery, Winton; the QANTAS Founders Museum, Longreach; the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville; the CQ University Art Collection and many private collections.
Margaret Worthington lives and works in Calliope, near Gladstone. Her career spans more than forty years and her works are held in private and public collections in Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Her major commissions include indoor and outdoor installations and large-scale outdoor sculptures in Emerald, the Gladstone region and Bundaberg.
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