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Buying flowers is an act of self-care, a gesture of nurture that can be for oneself or for another. A mood-lifting therapeutic and pleasurable act for giver and receiver following trauma. It is a show of love and a psychological outpouring that is reflected in both Ashlee Becks’ images and contemplative way of making her art.
Her paintings are emotional landscapes that mirror her life. They tell her story and what she is going through at the time. She creates a series of metaphoric landscapes for her seasons of the mind and her emotional states.
The artist uses a palette knife to apply thick impasto gestures in oil paint. Some blades are wide and trowel-like for laying on in thick sweeps and swathes. Others finer. She virtually stitches a picture together: crafted with luscious strokes of thick viscous oil paint to embroider an image or evoke a sensation. Her made-of-many-marks surfaces are textured and quilt-like.
A white painted self-frame that mimics satin-stitching in its pattern of short tightly packed, laboriously laid parallel strokes borders I was framed to contain and enclose an abundant mass of pink-hued iris. The integrated handmade, painted framing device implies an almost kitsch aesthetic. The artist sees her techniques and approach as a homage to the restricting time-taking women’s work and caring activities that so often go unappreciated. Green with Envy also has a frame integrated into its composition and a square pocket of white-painted marks is patched into Sea of Lolly amid a sweet profusion of glorious variegated deep purple and soft mauve iris. These works have a sense of female containment that is implicit in the medieval idea and depictions of the “hortus conclusus” or walled garden.
The flowers in Ashlee Becks’ paintings are “European” and many the artist had photographed in English style Springtime gardens around Battery Point Tasmania where she was living while undertaking a residency at Salamanca studios in 2021. She is not a flower gardener. Her own garden is mostly herbs and green plants that are more able to thrive in the Queensland climate in which she lives.
Ashlee Becks’ dense and layered flower paintings are metaphors for moods and the cycle of joy and loss in life and in nature. Into the green and lush background of flourishing flowers of Dying Daisies the artist collages a harshly dissonant angular grey concrete drain sluicing away a sludge of crushed and discarded petals. A device resonant of the transience of pleasure and perhaps the artist’s contemporary nod to the “Vanitas” tradition within the genre of early Dutch still painting. No live flowers are in Dripping Autumn. All are dead, fallen. Lleft to shrivel and die as Winter dormancy approaches. Elsewhere resilience prevails. Irrepressible bright red berry bushes thrust through pillowy ice-white snow drifts within Melting Garden and vestiges of soft green plants push through against the smothering weight of deposited sand in Graze in the aftermath of recent devastating Brisbane floods.
While the departure images for Ashlee Becks’ paintings may have their sources in site-specific locations and the natural world, they are at essence, intense and personal metaphoric psychological landscapes or mindscapes; expressive not only of emotional states, but of the power of the life force.
– Barbara Dowse, Curator
In 2020, Ashlee Becks graduated with First Class Honours in Fine Arts at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith. In October of that year, she won the Emerging Artist Award at the Brisbane Portrait Prize and also exhibited her first solo show at Grey Street Gallery in Brisbane. In 2021, Ashlee undertook a short-term residency at Salamanca Art Centre and was selected as a finalist for the Brett Whitely Travelling Art Scholarship and the Sunshine Coast Art Prize. Ashlee has participated in many group exhibitions and has been the recipient of the Arts in Bark Bursary and the Individuals Funding Program by Arts Queensland. In May of 2022, Ashlee presented her second solo show at POP Gallery in Fortitude Valley. She completed her second residency at House Conspiracy at the end of 2022. Her studio is based in Brisbane, Meanjin, where she lives with her partner, Henry.
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