David Wroth from Japingka Gallery shares some of the highlights from the Sonya Edney's 2022 solo exhibition.
It's always interesting to follow an artist's evolution as she develops her painting style and explores her subjects. This is Sonya Edney's third solo exhibition at Japingka Gallery. It's fascinating to watch her reach further into the subject matter that she is dealing with. This is the Gascoyne landscapes and the seasonal changes and the effects of light on the country. You see these elements coming through in the look and feel of the paintings.
In this painting in front of us, Sonya is adding a greater sense of subtlety, and this expands into her paintings. She's looking at the Gascoyne River as a flood zone that at certain times of the year, fills up and bursts beyond the banks. It allows for all the grasses and wildflowers growing along the sides of the river. At other times the river contracts right back into muddy pools.
Sonya's paintings are reflecting a more subtle approach to the colours that she's seeing around the river, which for much of the year is a wide, sandy expanse. There's often no signs of water because it is to be found beneath the surface. Sonya has found a way to express the subtle qualities of that flood zone with the banks on either side and the growth of native plants along the edges of the river.
This next painting is something quite different in Sonya's oeuvre. She's called it Gascoyne Waterhole. It is focusing on the smaller pools of water that can be quite deep and lie along the flood zone of the river. They can fill up in flood times and remain throughout the year.
Sonya identifies some waterholes that are named after her family. One in particular is called Edney Springs. This painting was created by Sonya at a time when she was thinking about her family due to the passing of an uncle. Perhaps Sonya is letting the waterhole represent a wellspring of her family. In some way it indicates that her family are deeply connected into this country. This circular design is something quite different to the structures you find in her other paintings. I think it is a very successful image on the theme of connection to country.
The painting Wildflowers After Rain also shows a new colour direction that Sonya is exploring. Over the last few years we've seen Sonya blend quite beautiful combinations of colours into her backgrounds, over which she lays the structural work and then all the dotting. This painting feels like winter storms, the most beautiful array of soft grey, blue-grey and mauve-grey colours.
We're used to seeing paintings from Sonya that have plenty of orange, red, gold of the desert colours that suggest the heat of the Gascoyne country. This one has a very soft palette and really captures the other season of the year in the Gascoyne. It also shows the artist maturing in the way that her colour palette works, that she can make very exciting desert paintings with a large component of grey tones, making it quite a different approach to picture making.
Sonya Edney is closely identified with her depictions of the night skies and, in particular, the Seven Sisters Dreaming story that crosses vast parts of Aboriginal Australia. We've also seen her explore the Emu in The Sky story. Sonya identifies that her Nana was the one that would talk to the children when they were camping out in the open. She said the huge skies and the Milky Way and the constellation stories were told by her elder family members to her family when they were children. These stories are linked to her family and her country, and this particular painting is an expression of both country and the night sky.
Sonya is able to capture the vastness of the spinifex country and the Seven Sisters constellation, set across a long, panel-shaped painting. This has a different feel to the way she has usually told this Seven Sisters story. I'm certain this will go on being a part of what this artist represents as her connection to country.