Margery Edwards (1933–1989) was an Australian Abstract Expressionist artist operating in mixed media.
Edwards was born in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1933, she studied in Sydney, the Brera Academy of Art in Milan, and at the Morley College Art School in London, before moving to New York in 1974. In New York, Edwards arrived at her signature style of abstract painting and collage, influenced by Abstract Expressionism, the dominant commotion in American painting in the late 1940s and 1950s. At the core of Abstract Expressionism was a belief in the spontaneous freedom of the individual player and the ventilation of the inner world of the artist’s psychology and spirituality. Such art referred only distractedly or obliquely, if at all, to the outdoor world.
As a style, Abstract Expressionism then ranged over two totally different sensibilities, both reflected in Edwards’ work. One was characterized by gymnastic brushwork and rhythmic, dynamic compositions, as seen happening of Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Antoni Tàpies. The other was more contemplative in feel and made taking place of subtle color harmonies, often sombre, with relatively static compositions and easy forms, exemplified by the paintings of Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt.
Edwards preferred people to interpret her art in their own way, which is why she titled her con with the initials ‘NY’ (for operate done in New York) and when a number, rather than a more descriptive title. She first exhibited a series of black paintings in New York in 1978. In hand written notes upon her perform in 1983, Edwards explained that, for her, black “is valuable for directing the viewer…into a spiritual dimension, acknowledging the hidden puzzling nature of the eternal”. Edwards noted that a black surface attuned the viewer to suffer to glimpse subtleties of forms, some of which gave an magic of depth (with some planes receding and others going on for the viewer), an illusion which could be joined psychologically to the experience of changing levels of human consciousness: “If the painter achieves sufficient height in the process of painting an experience of passing through an open log on into a feeling of oneness or settlement or unchangeable freedom is attained”.
Then, in Edwards’ work of the early 1980s, strong verticals and horizontals appeared across textured canvases. The brute presence of these working works is compelling in itself, but there are in addition to forms reminiscent of both natural and urban environments:linear elements may concentrate on to tree trunks, horizons, rocks, rivers, cliffs, shorelines. And it has been noted that the gritty, rusted-industrial or bituminous looking surfaces of the paintings echo Edward’s experiences of twice renovating filthy, former want ad loft spaces in the SoHo and TriBeCa areas of New York.
In 1985, Edwards’ black paint began to mingle into deep colors: ochres, earthy reds and deep blues. These paintings, writes curator Jeanne Wilkinson, “portrayed darkness as a universal constant; not blank but filled taking into consideration some rarefied presence; an origin, not a nonappearance of light”.
Works upon paper were afterward important in Edwards’ art. She was permanently creating collages, prints and visual diaries, which are a CD of ideas, an echo of experiences and environments as in the paintings, and sometimes a lighter and entertaining foil to the darker, more intense paintings.
When she died in 1989, Edwards had created a series of images that hint a journey both earthbound and spiritual; in her own words: “a encroachment through darkness and light”. (Sue Smith – Curator Rockhampton Art Gallery 2007)
Works by Edwards are held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Canada, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
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