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If The Mind Is Correct, The Brush Is Correct

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Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 594 x 841 mm Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 594 x 841 mm Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 594 x 841 mm Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 860 x 1220 mm Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 841 x 594 mm Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 841 x 594 mm Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 841 x 594 mm Dominique Marriott, Untitled, 2019, sumi ink on paper, 841 x 594 mm Dominique Marriott, installation view, 2019 Opening night painting performance, 2019, photograph by Claudia Aalderink. Opening night painting performance, 2019, photograph by Claudia Aalderink. Opening night painting performance, 2019, photograph by Claudia Aalderink. Opening night painting performance, 2019, photograph by Claudia Aalderink. Opening night painting performance, 2019, photograph by Claudia Aalderink.

Dominique Marriott has been working in the genre of life drawing for several years, but within the last twelve months her style has changed dramatically. Her previous approach which featured thin delicate lines, realistic proportions and perspective and a high level of linear detail has been wildly abandoned. The works in this exhibition have thick, uneven brush strokes, and the form of the body is suggested rather than spelled out.

Hamilton

 

Dominique Marriott
If the mind is correct, the brush is correct

 

19 April -11 May 2019

She crouches to balance on her toes. Her long fingers are black with ink. Her expression is intent and fixed, pupils dilated. Holding the brush perpendicular to the paper, in the manner typical of Japanese calligraphy, she paints long flowing strokes. Each line is an extension of the energy from her body, a pulling out from her innermost self. The small gallery’s walls were lined shoulder to shoulder. People breathed quietly. Ink pattered to the floor.

This was my experience of Dominique Marriott’s exhibition opening event. Her solo show, If the mind is correct, the brush is correct at Freit Contemporary just closed last month. But the opening night itself held a kind of heavy, magical pause of slow time experience, as for the first time ever, Dominique painted live in front of a captivated audience. A nude model (Tyla Jane Armstrong, also an emerging Hamilton artist in her own right) gently moved between poses while Dominique worked. Using sheet after sheet, the artist painted rapidly, held in a meditative focus.

This performance offered viewers a rare glimpse into how Dominique created the works in the exhibition. While it demystified her artistic process, the audience was also captured in the rich atmosphere of the experience, so much that the feeling was almost of being allowed to witness something profoundly sacred.

Dominique Marriott has been working in the genre of life drawing for several years, but within the last twelve months her style has changed dramatically. Her previous approach which featured thin delicate lines, realistic proportions and perspective and a high level of linear detail has been wildly abandoned. The works in this exhibition have thick, uneven brush strokes, and the form of the body is suggested rather than spelled out.

Consequently, the works are semi-abstract and playfully naïve, like the inked nudes by Matisse or the splashy scrawls of Max Gimblett. However, this expressive style, as loose and instantaneous as it seems, is only possible through her history of naturalistic depiction of the body. Her attention to form comes from obsessive observation of the minute details of bodies. Then this intimate familiarity is translated back into smooth strokes that caress the edges of form.

This difference in style is a direct result of a change in methodology, but also a change in media, from thin charcoal pencils to using liquid ink and high quality calligraphy brushes. She uses calligraphy brushes made of weasel hair or aged goat wool. These are made by a highly specialised brush master who aligns the natural tips of each hair by hand to form the desired shape instead of trimming them. This means that there is an extra buoyancy to her brushes.

Dominique draws heavily on Zen, the Japanese school of Buddhism in her approach to art making. She is currently apprenticed to training under Akiko Crowther, a Grand Master of Japanese Calligraphy at the Nelson Yū Yū Japanese Calligraphy School. Zen prioritises striving toward individual enlightenment through a direct and practical approach. By removing elaborate rituals and objects of worship, it elevates the idea that enlightenment is accessible through self-discipline, meditation, and simple living. The austerity of the Zen lifestyle is intended to draw the individual’s thoughts beyond physical reality.

In Zen philosophy, the ideal is to attain the state of mushin, of a mind free from thoughts. The characters for mushin can be translated as ‘void heart-mind,’ where the void space in Japanese theory can be described as pure and absolute detachment. Zen Masters use calligraphy writing as a powerful tool, both as a vehicle of meditation, and as the creative result of this free expression. Likewise, when Dominique creates, she strives to enter into the state of mushin and the process of mark making becomes a reflection of her mental state. The titular phrase of her exhibition articulates this value: ‘if the mind is correct, the brush is correct‘.

This is also why Dominique works with traditional materials and paints with the fewest possible ink strokes, quickly and intuitively. The purity of her work has its base in these Zen concepts of spiritual truth as opposed to the illusion of reality. Here, the economy of strokes are mere suggestions and most of the page is left as void space. The body is caught in motion. Instead the thick black lines seduce the viewer into completing the forms in their own rich interior worlds. 

Ellie Lee-Duncan

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