I’ve just been in Europe for 5 weeks! While there, I attended a wonderful, unusual artist’s residency called Horse and Art.
The two program was in a tiny town called Barnag, in rural Hungary, and it emphasised the connection between equestrian arts and visual arts. I got a chance to use my Hungarian language skills, my printmaking skills, and to have a lot of fun working with horses for the first time in my life, having interactions with these beautiful animals that were a far cry from the four standard 2 hour trail rides I’d done in the past.
As a consequence, I did a lot of art. Of horses.
Depicting horses is something I used to do significantly more in the past, before my practice switched to one based more on my own personal observation. I love horses and I love depicting them, but I think I became a little bit worried over the years about avoiding cliche, because horses can be a very cliched subject – think of the painting of the dramatic rearing steed, a herd of galloping horses, or the beautiful pony with flowers in his mane. So I admit that I was a little anxious to resume depicting horses in my work.
I decided to spend time with them, to observe the movement of their bodies, the way the light shone off their coats, the way they moved, the shiver of their muscles and the angles of their moving legs and heads. I created works based on their shifting, contorting bodies.
I also did a lot of work to do with the environment. Barnag is a beautiful place, rolling fields and spectacular skies, covered in wildflowers, thyme, herbs, and berries.
One of the horses, Arabell, would roll in the field and get covered in stains from the dewberries and blackberries. I was intrigued by the berries, and so I did several works based on Arabell’s interaction with them.
I also did some other works involving berries, depicting the other horses.
Finally, something non-horse related. A painting of some of the wonderful wildflowers, following on from my wildflower painting I did in Canada. I did this in a much looser style than I usually work, emphasising the ephemeral nature of these abundant plants.
It was half the length of my previous residency, but it was a very busy, involved time. I met some wonderful people and had some wonderful interactions with the horses. This is a beautiful part of the world – the Hungarians value horses very much, having a history of equestrian skill going right back to the Huns, and the hosts, Beáta and Marton, have wonderful responsive horses whom they work with in a very natural way (lots of bareback riding, significantly less tack than most other equestrian disciplines.) It didn’t matter that I hadn’t had the experience with horses the other residents had had – I was given the opportunity to learn at the pace I was capable of. Now that I’m back in Australia I’d really like to continue riding, although I’m not sure how yet, given that I don’t have a horse or access to a horse!