Inside Gemma Lynch-Memory’s studio is a quiet reverence broken only by the sounds of the careful application of her creative process. Spanning almost two decades and over 25 solo exhibitions, it’s a process as introspective and individual as the artist herself. Her actions are purposeful and convey a sense of urgency as she seeks to capture the essence of ephemeral inspiration. There is a constant referencing to an open journal of sketched ideas and musings that form the seeds of creative conception. But it is only during the actual application of paint on canvas that her subconscious concepts emerge and bloom.
Several pieces are worked on simultaneously so as to best manage the various stages of drying and curing paints. Warm luminous liquid varnishes are honey-poured over surfaces to create mirror-like finishes. The studio atmosphere is occasionally disturbed by the sounds of a powered sander or dremel drill as they are used to create fine abstract marks and details. As each work nears completion, they are moved to her studio gallery to “let rest” before any final fine-tuning is made and the painting can be considered complete. From initial canvas priming to the signing of the work, the entire process absorbs several months.
Her works are abstract landscape compositions that feature-rich and vivid colours. The iconographic markings and segregated space entice an emotive response and long lonely horizons where “heaven meets earth” speak to our country yearnings. Organic debris made up of small sticks, soil, rocks and dried vegetation give the work a living quality and occasional hand-painted texts introduce further depth and meaning. Perhaps it is Gemma’s country childhood and the use of debris and soil pigments that give her work such an uncanny sense of place. From our oceans to our outback and our rivers to our deserts, Gemma Lynch-Memory’s paintings capture the spirit and character that live in the heart of every Australian.
In 2007, after finding a copy of a diary in a second-hand bookshop, Gemma became the first person to retrace the outback journey of Australia’s first female explorer, Emily Caroline Creaghe. Inspired by the diary, the expedition was research for her Emily: explorer national touring exhibition that celebrated the incredible achievements of this little-known Australian woman. The expedition was featured on the ABC 7:30 Report and Gemma was recognised by the International Society of Female Explorers based in New York. The touring exhibition received critical acclaim and was also featured in Australian Art Review magazine.
Gemma has a few distinct series within her oeuvre but all carry her trademark colour chords and expressive horizons and the works are always large, bold and confident. Her ‘RMB” Roadside Mail Box series are reminiscent of a drive-by snapshot of the quintessential country letterbox. Painted with a pallet knife in thick impasto chunks, the letterboxes stand boldly within the stark landscape. Her “River” series of work has deep brooding rivers stretching along dense tree-lined river banks as they make their way to the coast. The “Muddy Waterholes” glisten with the offering of a cool oasis in harsh red brown lands and her “Waterlilies” and “Wildflower” works have proven irresistible to the buying public.
Gemma has already achieved much in her career. With a constant demand for work from collectors both in Australia and overseas, she has had little respite. Prices for her work have increased greatly in the past decade and this demand and a slower output of work will continue to drive prices higher. Those looking to invest and purchase significant artwork would do well to take note of any current exhibitions. To achieve 25 solo exhibitions for any artist is a true milestone and a testament to creative strength.