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Human Traces

Solo exhibition
8th - 30th October 2021

North Melbourne, Australia

2021 Susanne Kerr, Messenger, gouache on watercolour paper mounted on board, Matt varnish,
Human Traces

Kerr's practice as an artist focuses on the interactions between contemporary society, individual values, and environmental issues. The ideas within her gouache paintings derive from a distillation of fragmentary thoughts that appear within the mundane of life – the thoughts that flitter about while listening to the news, reading books, observing the world and making sense of current issues and individual concerns.


In her paintings she is endeavouring to communicate her concerns as a human cognisant of the precarious relationship we have between ourselves and with nature.  Human Traces comprises quiet allegories that mimic life, just as theatre speaks to the human experience.  They present culture and the natural environment in scenes abundant with birds, flowers, ribbons and women to explore social connections – spoken and unspoken – that bind people together, and the double-edged sword of how human survival and the depletion of the earth’s resources are interwoven. 


A large part of the narrative in these works is embodied in the curving, winding ribbons typically used for flower bouquets and gift-wrapping. These ribbon-forms are visual allegories of power, control, influence and internal conflict. Connecting, binding, blinding, manipulating, threatening, or erratically in motion, they represent a physical manifestation of human intent and the inextricable link we have to nature. Some transform into predatory lines weaving through nature, or like detritus, wrapped around branches, birds, and figures caught in their path. They represent not only human emotions and actions but our slow remorseless destruction of the natural environment that surrounds us.


The flora and fauna depicted in these paintings reference the gardens and aviaries of her grandmother and great-aunt.  Abundant with peony roses, camellias, dogwoods, cherry and plum blossom, magnolias and creeping-jew-plants overwhelming and enveloping the figures. These works honour the women from her past who had a strong sense of the beauty of the world and their place in it. In creating these paintings there is a delicious contradiction between containing and constructing these botanical environments while embracing their diversity, individuality, and consciously disregarding any alignment with their flowering season. 

The approach to the relative scale of botanical to human form in the paintings is intended to magnify nature’s status and evoke a sense of awe similar to when humans are in the natural environment. In these spaces we perhaps come closest to a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves, something sublime. Coronavirus and the global implications on human health and on our day to day living have provided a reminder of nature’s omnipresence, and a chance to bear witness to the ramifications of individual free-will versus collective responsibility in managing the worldwide outbreak. It has been a powerful reminder of nature’s duality of creation and destruction.


Small selection of artworks from the Human Traces exhibition below.

Click image for a single view.

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