Profile & Text
In the latter half of the 20th century, a number of notable Australian artists including Guy Grey-Smith and Fred Williams were attracted to the landscape of the Pilbara region in Western Australia. Often, their initial interest grew into a significant area of investigation.
Jo Darvall’s recent paintings encapsulate the essence of this area. Wide bands of loosely applied and layered colours beautifully describe a landscape that is flat, hot and dry. But when Darvall first travelled to the Pilbara, she was confronted by the markedly different landscape in which she found herself. The remote sites to which she travelled were located in arid, rocky terrain that is sparsely covered in prickly vegetation and this vast, empty landscape brought about in her feelings of isolation and anxiety. The open cut mines that brutally scar the area didn’t look particularly ugly or out of place to her in such alien territory.
Darvall tries to imagine the lives of early prospectors in the region. Experiencing the same extremes in temperature and distance (but with the comforts of contemporary communications and equipment), she often thinks about the families who packed their tools and belongings into a wheelbarrow and set out to walk inland from the nearest port to find gold or work or simply opportunity. Mining boom or gold rush; dislocation, potential gains, tangible losses and an attitude of trying to making the most of it are all part of the deal.
Darvall’s earlier works were produced in Victoria. Her abstract paintings that were inspired by the You Yangs are characterised by fat, pounding lines and a rich palette of browns and greens. Insects appeared in some of her works after Darvall witnessed the annual migration of bogong moths in northern Victoria. Clearly identifiable in these works, the moths have been more abstracted over time as they have come to metaphorically represent the journey they undertake and, eventually, all those who journey. As Darvall now says, “they embody the spirits of travellers”.
In Darvall’s Pilbara inspired works, the insects have a fragile and encrusted appearance and are no longer present in the paintings themselves as she felt the moths “needed to make room for all that space”. Instead, she has produced a series of small sculptures of moth-like forms
that stand in front of the paintings. This enables the paintings to act as theatrical backdrops against which the Journeyer can be presented.
Over the last eighteen months Darvall’s feelings about the Pilbara have shifted. Feelings of isolation are softening into a comfortable solitude and anxiety is giving way to curiosity. As with those before her, the strange beauty of the landscape is starting to reveal itself to Darvall
on her journeys through the spinifex.
Artist + Writer + Curator
Jo Darvall is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts and co-founder of Artist for Kids Culture ACK. Now in Western Australia, Darvall currently lectures at both Kidogo Art Institute and Claremont School of Art and works from her studio in an old ship stores building in Fremantle.
Born Yarram Victoria, Australia 6/3/1966
|1989||Bachelor of Arts – majoring in Printmaking, Victorian College of¬† the Arts. Melbourne, Victoria|
|1987||Video Production, Collingwood Technical College|
|1986||Super 8 and 16mm Film Production, Collingwood Technical College, Victoria|
|1985||Art, East Gippsland Tafe College, Sale, Victoria|
|2011||Artists who hale from the West, Substation Arts Centre, Newport, VIC|
|2011||Landscape Riches, Brightspace Gallery St Kilda, Melbourne.|
|2010||A new beginning‚Ä¶.West Kidogo Arthouse Fremantle W.A|
|2009||Natural Heros Sub 12, Newport Sub Station, Newport.|
|2008||Small Things, Katrina Manton Gallery, Albert Park, Melbourne.|
|2007||Flight Mario‚Äôs Caf√©, Fitzroy, Melbourne|
|2005||Recent Works from the West, Mario‚Äôs Caf√©, Fitzroy, Melbourne|
|1992||Dream, Joes Garage Caf√©, Fitzroy, Melbourne|
Infest Group exhibition curated by Thelma Johns; Gallery Central, Perth WA
PAWA Print Prize (exhibited) Moors Building Fremantle WA
Addaption Biodiversity Art website Exhibition Symbiotica Biodiversity University WA
Off the Wall, PS Art Exhibition Space, Fremantle Festival WA
Selected NFV 2010 Annual Art Award, City of Rockingham WA
PAWA Art Prize (exhibited), Moors Building Fremantle, W.A¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†ÔŅĹ
Cossack Art Prize (exhibited), Cossack W.A
Threads the Art of Woman, Bright Space Gallery, StKilda VIC
ACT Writers Centre Exhibition of Artists Books, Tuggerong Arts Centre ACT
Art in Public Places City of Hobsonsbay, VIC
Studio Exhibition PS Art Studios, Pakenham Street, Fremantle, W. A.
Christmas Show Lancaster Press Gallery, Brooklyn Melbourne
Three Stories and Emma Keep, Katrina Manton Gallery Albert Park
Etched in Stone, with Mike Nicholls, Geoff Ricardo, Lancaster Press, Brooklyn VIC
Curated Women at War, Red Cross photographic exhibition at Federation Square, Melbourne.
Feasibility study for the ‚ÄėLiving Wall‚Äô, Hosier Lane City of Melbourne.
Illustrated Children‚Äôs Book for playwright Jane Harrison ‚ÄúThe butterfly, the bee, the moth and the rose.‚ÄĚ
Artists for Kids Exhibition, Brightspace Melbourne
Grand Opening, Katrina Manton Gallery, Albert Park, Melbourne.
Artists for Kids Culture, Nellie Casten Gallery South Yarra
Art in Public Places – Hobsonsbay Council, VIC
Selection Williamstown Tattersal Contempory Art Prize 07
Suburban Art Project with Mike Nicholls & James Smeaton. Curated by Tania Blackwell Melbourne Fringe Festival
Footscray Community Arts Centre Collection Exhibition with Kim Westcott, Mike Nicholls and others Curated by Mario
Studio Exhibition with Katrina Manton Splash Art Studios, Spotswood
Artists for Kids Culture, Jackman Gallery, St Kilda
Group Show with Gaberal Bates & Maxine Jepson Curated by Tracey McIrvine Jackman Gallery, St Kilda
Incubator Exhibition Series exhibiting with Geoff Ricardo Curated by Tania Blackwell
Phaze 3 Gallery, Newport
Artists for Kids Culture Charity Exhibition Jackman Gallery, St Kilda
Selection Williamstown Tattersal Contempory Art Prize 05
Founded Splash Art Studios with Katrina Manton.
Artists for the Tarkine Curated by Phillip Doggett-Williams & Ashley Crawford Bright Space, St Kilda
Art Expedition – The Tarkine, Tasmania organised by Ashley Crawford & Phillip Doggett-Williams including John Young & Mark Schaller.
Advised Melbourne City Council on the formation and sponsorship of ArtPlay.
Artists for Kids Culture Mira Fine Art Gallery, Melbourne
Founded Artists for Kids Culture Trust with David Larwill & Emma Davies.
1995-2007 Director of Artists for Kids Culture Trust.
Artist Studio – Australian Print Workshop.
The Cubbies, Roar Galleries, Fitzroy
¬†The Erotica Show, The Lounge Nightclub
Waste Management curated by Amond Scott, Tolarno Gallery, St Kilda.
Art Show Richmond Art Studios
1st Prize Fringe Arts Furniture Exhibition Poster Melbourne Fringe Festival
¬†Made in Fitzroy Curated by David Ellis Opening of Art Space, Fitzroy Town Hall
O.T.C. Tech Art Fax Exhibition curated by Auguste Blackman Sydney
Art & Life with Ewan Cameron & others The Next Wave Festival, Melbourne
Art Bizarre Melbourne Fringe Arts Festival
Life in the Alley Street Artists & others Painters of De Mews, Fitzroy
Frog on a Parrots Back Spoleto Fringe Gallery, Fitzroy
Brush & Hammer Spoleto Fringe Gallery, Fitzroy
Print Life The Women’s Gallery, Fitzroy
EX/AU/CAB Series Richmond & Fitzroy
Eight Views Stuart Gerstman Galleries, Richmond
The Squeakiest Wheel Footscray Community Arts Centre
Important Works Fine Art Research & Technology, Sydney
EX/AU/CAB Series Richmond & Fitzroy
The writing‚Äôs on the wall William Yeoman, The West Australian 26 July 2011
Artsource Lifetime Achievements Awards The West Australian 2011
The Power Star News Group 2009
Jos hope springs eternal for the Wests youth ‚Äď Arts‚ÄĚ Brimbank Leader
New Art Jo Darvall‚Äôs Beautifull Butterflys By Xavier Toby, Lost At E Minor 2009
Art goes to print in Brooklyn‚ÄĚ by Stella Tzobankiss Leader Newspaper 2009
Challenging Work The Mail The Advertiser¬† 2009
Smart Arts by Richard Watts 3RRR radio Melbourne 2006
Overland Extra 2 Etchings 1989 Supplement to Overland 117
Jo Darvall is an accomplished artist whose work is developing in new and exciting directions. Her current Dwellingup series consists of evocative and beautiful work. It is inspired by her recent move to Freemantle in W.A. from Williamstown in Victoria. Dwellingup Forest is a secret haven for the locals of Perth. Darvall finds this forest ‚Äėdelicious and mysterious, and a place in which nature appears at its most luxurious and mystical‚Äô. It evokes a feeling of utopia for Darvall given its arid, red, hot surrounds. The artist has introduced a new palette to her work to reflect the colour and mood of the forest featuring greys, silver and green with highlights of vermillion. She is currently interested in the approaches of traditional and contemporary painters including Tucker, Nolan, Tuckson and Lin Onus. This current body of work represents a departure in content and style from Darvall‚Äôs most recent work which featured the resilience and fragility of small creatures such as the moth, butterfly and dragonfly. Darvall ‚Äėdelights in the delicate yet robust strength of these moths, butterflies and other creatures who survive with such grace and dignity‚Äô so she elevates them to the status of hero. This series is a large and well developed body of work that includes paintings, prints and a beautifully realized artist book, which have all been widely exhibited in Victoria.
Darvall‚Äôs aim as an artist is to create interesting and beautiful works that have a freshness of colour and engaging marks. As a young artist, Darvall‚Äôs artistic intention was more political. She made art films, created and performed in performances with art bands, worked with groups like Spoleto Fringe Festival creating mobile sculptures, exhibitions in back streets and painted trams. Darvall has also used her artist background to embrace charity. She founded the Artist for Kids Culture Trust with friend and artist David Larwill. The charity still exists now some 15 years later, and is supported by a large number of artists and art supporters. Coming from this active arts/charity background, Darvall still wants to create change, and a better place for others. However, her aim now is to achieve this in a different way by creating visually beautiful paintings, which tell a story. She is trying to give the viewer a pleasant and uplifting emotional experience. The creatures which feature in her recent work are strong, and possess dignity and purpose. The Dwellingup series celebrates the beauty and mystery of our natural world.
Form, Colour and Artistic Process
Composition is very important to Darvall‚Äôs work, and the placement of forms within an environment must enhance the message she is trying to convey. Colour is another very important consideration in her work, and creating colour and its application in a painting is an ongoing journey of discovery for Darvall. Darvall cites Clarice Becketts soft palette and paint application as a source of inspiration in creating a calming effect.¬† However, to this effect, the artist adds a spark of colour to capture the attention of the viewer and bring them into the magical world that she is painting.
Darvall makes her paintings through a process of layering of her paint. She is always surprised by ‚Äėaccidents‚Äô created in this process, some more successful than others.¬† These spontaneous marks, or dripped paint can be the making of an image for Darvall. She is inspired by the naked painted line of Tony Tuckson, with its strength and honesty, and tries to avoid over working an image, as this often leads to tired lines and flat surfaces. Darvall also looks to the master of translucence, Turner, when glazing and overpainting, using the layering process to great effect
Written by Heather van Heerwaarden