June 25, 2020
The Making of The Billabong Boudoir Series by Kobie Bosch
About the Artwork Series
The Billabong Boudoirs was inspired by a series of events that ocurred towards the end of last year, flowing into 2020, all of them etched vividly in my mind: the strangling drought and the furnace of the bushfires in Australia, and then an overseas trip to Europe and the UK. These events left strong visual impressions on me that begged for closer observation. In these images there seemed to be so much dichotomy: devastation and heartache, beauty and elegance. How to make sense of it all was the challenge that confronted me at the beginning of this year. The best place to explore these questions has always for me been in my work.
I find the element of space in the picture plane intriguing. Curiosity propels me to chop the picture plane up, dividing it, covering some sections in colour and textures, tone and form, and other to remain flat and abstract. The challenge then becomes one of stitching it all together back to a harmonious whole. The whole process is utterly absorbing as I am constantly seeing new possibilities to be explored. The floors of the boudoirs, similar to the tables in the Wallpaper series, seem to want to lie flat on the picture plane, whilst the walls want to move with form of birds and trees. The floors are treated in a woodblock fashion, the dark ink line cutting into the canvas much as a cutting knife would cut into a printing block. The initial process starts with thumbnail sketches of the composition. First the large divisions of plane into floor and walls, then details of furniture, baths, surfboards and chairs, moving into the space. I was delighted to find lyrebirds peeking from behind screens and entering doorways, echidnas foraging for ants on the red earth floor. They came as a surprise to me, and yet provided the solutions needed in the composition – they were the perfect fit.
Once the main bones of the composition have been established, I chalk it onto the canvas where I let it “marinate” for a day or so, before the inking process starts. I mix a dark colour that I then use to paint over all the chalk lines – a long but helpful process that allows for reflection. Once that is done, tonal washes and first layers go in with big brushes. The painting of details start next, using oils and linseed oil to meticulously paint the details of birds, animals and objects. The painting starts coming together then, growing in wholeness. Sometimes a surprise guest arrives in the form of a bird or animal that I did not see in the original design. Right at the end of the process, the shadow lines on the floor gets painted in. It is the final ribbon that connects and binds all the elements together.
The end result is a busy, colourful narrative brimming with joy.
The French Cubists used the still life to prove that the picture plane could fracture and transform everyday objects into new ways of seeing. The dawn of Australian Modernism was spearheaded by innovations that used the still life to cleave away from tradition. Just look at the way Kobie Bosch slices her scene in half and concentrates on a tightly graphic treatment, specifically in her bathtub boudoir series, evoking the cool eye of 1920s Australian painting or the detail of a rich woodblock by the Japanese masters.
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