Dawn Csutoros uses her experience of nature as means to engage with a more internal, infinite experience of space. The metaphysical “other” zone of meditation, and the landscape and colours of many countries meld together to inform the simple and pared back symbols of her practice.
Having previously travelled through China, Europe, Japan and Central Australia, she sites her recent experience of travelling the Silk Road through the Gobi desert as significant to her current work. Struck by the intensity of the dessert sky and aware that she was surrounded by mountains of Lapis lazuli, this landscape of blue within and blue above appealed to her interest in the Daoist principle of harmony with the elements and the greater system of the universe. The colour blue emerged as a central element and has resulted in the work Numinous.
Having long been fascinated by the psychology of colour, Csutoros describes her experience of working with it, understanding its potential, and observing its effects, as being both contemplative and grounding. Immersive, cloaking and effectual, each colour in the spectrum resonates with its own unique wavelength.
Blue is a curious colour, posssesing both qualities of cool calming and warm energizing. A colour that once signified royalty and the sacred due to its rarity; it is also the most easily visible, being present in the intangible and infinite boundaries of both sky and sea. The colour theorist Johannes Itten stated of its quality, “Blue beckons our spirit with the vibration of faith into the infinite distances.”1 He goes on to point out that within the Chinese culture blue represented the immortal.
Working with a simple set of materials – organic Chinese papers, pure French pigments and Japanese inks – her drawings develop through a gradual and tactile action of rubbing, gently building up tone and density to create a series of amorphous territories that operate outside the boundaries of perspective. Dry pigment merges with the paper’s soft fibres.
Csutoros uses the intense hue of ultramarine to coax out a series of soft, elegant, elliptical forms that hover in the space between solidity and void. Some are partially obscured while others stand in full view set against a field of grey and white, they are presented as both full, rounded orbs and also as portals or openings through which we might enter. As our perception oscillates between these two spatial readings, we become aware that these oblong figures are in fact a series of meditation tools. The saturated and immersive blue of the centre ekes toward a defined outer rim, an edge that glows with a tinge of dynamic orange. A shimmering, melding visual play occurs as the eye adjusts to the lip, the gap and the space in – between. Rather than sketching the literal landscape, Csutoros’ works take us inward and allow us to meld into a pure field of colour.
Phe Luxford 2011
Contemporary Arts Curator and Writer