Penetrating the surface
Claire Beausein by Annette Davis
Flying in a small plane over the Kimberley, one feels exhilarated to be seeing the earth from this viewpoint. The shapes and patterns in the earth’s skin are mesmerising. It is one of the wonders of the natural world that the patterns and shapes observed from this macro perspective are also found in the smallest elements of nature. This wonder is an ongoing inspiration for visual artist Claire Beausein who lives in Broome, in the West Kimberley.
Claire has lived in this remote town for over 20 years. A regular exhibitor and award-winner in local and regional exhibitions, she has also been selected for national awards and touring exhibitions, including the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize and the Mandorla Art Prize. Well known for her oils on canvas and watercolours, over recent years Claire has focussed on exploring the two and three dimensional possibilities of paper.
Beausein creates highly textural artworks from cotton pulp, in which she uses her hands to caress patterns and shapes into the wet pulp. Once dry, she sometimes uses inks to bring colour into the work’s surface.
“I love the repetition of textures and patterns on all scales, the desert dunes and dry riverbeds from the air and the miniscule patterns in the sand; these things speak to me of an overarching design to life,” she explains.
In 2012 Claire was awarded a Mid Career Fellowship from the WA Department of Culture and the Arts, which enabled her to take up a residency in Basel, at a Paper Mill and at the Natural History Museum. She was able to absorb herself in the Museum’s huge collection and learn from master paper makers, culminating in exhibitions about coral reefs at the Natural History Museum and at Linton and Kay Galleries back in Perth in 2013. In a subsequent solo exhibition, Watermark at Linton and Kay in 2014, Claire focussed on different skins, in particular the pelts of extinct and endangered species, to make the point that humanity’s reliance on animal pelts for protection, warmth and ceremony not only connects us to the natural world but also to its demise.
Claire’s next adventure is a residency at the Awagami Paper Mill, near Tokushima, Japan, in 2015. She will learn to make washi paper (from the bark of the mulberry) and is keen to experiment with creating texture from washi and using dyes and dyed pulp. The results will be exhibited in Perth in 2016.
Working with paper pulp during the high humidity of the Broome wet season is not easy. Freight costs from her distant location are also a considerable expense, and Claire spends a lot of time ensuring that works are safely packed for their journey. But these limitations are offset by proximity to the environment she loves.
“Being embedded in this amazing place gives me the opportunity to make work about it at a deeper level than a visitor may encounter. I hope that in some small way my work might remind people of the value of this remarkable environment.”
Annette Davis is an artist and freelance curator. During the past two decades she has managed arts projects in Perth, Kununurra, Karratha and Albany, where she currently lives.
This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Summer 2014/15