Ellen Bennett and Jessica Peascod – Waterworks

Strathnairn Gallery  
96 Stockdill Drive Holt ACT
Until 2 May 2021
Open Thursday to Sunday 10am to 4pm

Having only relatively recently moved to a 200 acre sheep farm, Ellen Bennett had her first taste of the effects of drought as she watched dams dry up, whilst the whole nation watched large populations of fish die in riverways. Television images of the fish kill shocked urban dwellers and environmentalists as well as people on the land.

This experience and subsequent unnerving times of drought, fire and flood gave rise to this exhibition by Ellen Bennett and her daughter, Jessica Peascod. The works are both a celebration of water and a consideration of the fragility of water ecosystems and their inhabitants.

Bqrbie spoke to Ellen Bennett and Jessica Peascod at the opening of the exhibition on 8 April 2021

Ellen’s exhibition focusses squarely on fish. It is a continuation of her printmaking practice. She uses collagraph and gelatin (jelly) plate techniques with additional drawing and painting on the prints. The incorporation of her love of ceramics is seen in the fish themed amphora prints.

Jessica’s works use the backgrounds as a starting point and feature sea creatures as their subject.  On monotype backgrounds she illustrates often what are traditionally considered ‘ugly’ sea creatures, nevertheless and determinedly finding beauty in them. Jessica is formally trained as a natural history illustrator but this work has allowed her the freedom of things not perfect.

Both bodies of work are extremely skilful in their execution, redolent with meaning and deeply engaging for the viewer. The delicacy of the work belies the raw experience of environmental loss and degradation. Whilst we do not need to take this message with us to the work on the wall, it is perhaps now ever present in our thinking.

Ellen Bennett and Jessica Peascod entice us not only with the quality of their work but with the quietly assertive single focus of their subject matter. Beauty is foremost in these creations, but never a conventional beauty, and hence we are impelled to think about the underlay of environmental messaging. No need to be didactic – the evidence makes us assume this starting point.

All the works are for sale and can be viewed at https://www.strathnairn.com.au/waterworks-bennett-and-peascod

Image: by Barbie Robinson, Writing with Light . L-R: Jo Hollier opening the exhibition for artists Ellen Bennett and Jessica Peascod at Strathnairn