Bathurst Harbour 1997

In 1996 Jenny and I made our first visit to Bathurst Harbour in remote south west Tasmania. When we returned I was determined to paint my response to this amazing place, I had drawn and taken photographs while we were down there, but how was I to make the step into painting? I worked for months without any result until I remembered a story about Kandinsky. He returned to his studio one evening and saw a beautiful, unknown painting at the base of his easel, he realised it was the one he had been working on which had fallen and turned upside down.

I adapted this idea, building up land, sea and sky, then turned the canvas over, and allowed the process to develop again. Gradually a layered landscape emerged which contained my feelings about this remarkable area.

– a personal appreciation by Jennifer Livett

Thursday, November 20, 1997 – the day Paul Boam’s first Hobart exhibition for six years opened – was a day to mark with a white stone, the Romans’ sign for a memorable day.

Why? Because the paintings are beautiful, complex images, both lyrical and epic, of Tasmania’s South West wilderness. They are also an irruption of vigorous, experimental energy into Tasmania’s strong, but conservative tradition of landscape painting. When you thought there could be no new vision of these stunning places – here it is!

In fact, these paintings are a perfect illustration of the links between aesthetics and immoral impulses! They are the first paintings of Tasmania since Lloyd Rees’s River Derwent series to be worth selling your grandmother for! Forget Telstra! The only problem with these stunning works is that you will never be able to part with them!

The exhibition arose from a journey to Bathurst Harbour on a fishing boat in February this year. The result is a whirlwind of colour meditations on the relations between mountains, water and sky, weather, mood and changing light; space and distance. This is the unmistakable Tasmanian South West familiar to all bushwalkers, loggers, fishermen four wheel drivers, and conservationists – and yet the physical is never far from the metaphysical here.

The striking first impression in a number of the works is that the surface has been structured into a two-dimensional pattern of horizontal bands whose edges dissolve at various points into the bands above and below. In each of these, the arching power of a mountain ridge is echoed in the reverse curves of water and margins. Skilful manipulation of colour, tone, and line makes this two- dimensional representation immediately three- dimensional to the eye. At the same time, the repeating forms hold the possibility of being reflections, or receding layers of distant ranges, shapes emerging through cloud, or of hills modelled suddenly in the distance by transforming shafts of light. Each painting thus becomes a particular landscape and a series of dynamic events in the life of that landscape,one view and many.

Colours sweep you away. Ranging blue/purples are charged to electric pitch with the faintest touch of orange or ochre; cerulean jumps against grey-greens imprinted with the dark calligraphy of timber. A vivid zen-like line holds everything that matters of a far beach or headland. The texture of the paint surface carries its own energy. There is something here of the analytical abstract drive of Cézanne’s late paintings of Mont St. Victorie, but with the atmospheric tumult of Turner. Somehow these works have both structure and mystery.

… Any wilderness area contains millions of the same shapes repeated, and Boam’s works acknowledge that – yet what he celebrates is that each scene is transformed every minute, constantly remade for the eye by the changing light.