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public debut
16th April - 12 May 2025

descript 

/ d  ɛˈ s  k  r  ɪ  p  t  / 

‘descript’

 lit. of the book

: n. a celebration of books and stories 

  through alla prima    

 

\ˌä l əˈp r ē m ə, ˌa l-\

‘allaprima’

: n. Italian:

 at the first –

 first attempt

 wet paint on wet

 completed in one session

collins atlas ben copy.jpg
chinese tales.jpeg
vogue miriam.jpeg

Spanning 5 years

 

Recycled 

 

Representational

  

Community portraits 

  

Community stories –

Migrant,  scientist, 

Funeral director,  DJ, plumber, activist,  paramedic, life model….

  

Exploring connection 

A LIVING STORY DESCRIBED

 

descript celebrates connection through vintage texts and paint.

 

works are created from live subjects within a 

2½ - 3½ hour session – a technique called alla prima.

 

paintings are paired with the biographical experiences of a living person.

 

descript is a social reflection, enticing its audience to share in a visual and emotional experience.

 

IMG_8412.JPG

50

50

50

vintage

texts

   

live

  subjects

 

life 

stories 

EXHIBITION DETAILS

 

 

Wall mounting - 50 artworks painted and edited by Jennifer Fyfe.

 

Target audience - aged 15 and above. 

 

Interest - Fine Arts/Literature/Sociology/ general community audience. 

 

Printed stories hung beside paintings 

Digitally printed in ink 

Embossed with braille.  

 

Accessibility – Painted works removable from shelf by staff for vision-impaired or height-restricted visitors. 

 

Artist performance -

portrait demonstration 

collaboration with story/poetry reading, music/dramatic performance 

 

Current Working With Children Check Volunteer 2562379A-01

 

Educational - Contextual information about history of Alla Prima technique in Australian art provided.

 

Publications

Spiral-bound B and W large print loan catalogues

Option for condensed braille text to be translated into other languages 

 

Traditional full-colour catalogue books for purchase

  

bianca picasso.jpeg

DESCRIBING A LIVING STORY

Through painterly images, Jennifer Fyfe seeks to elicit a feeling of connection in her audience and convey a message, story, and emotion. Fyfe paints on unconventional substrates as an exploration of texture and colour and, more profoundly, as a response to obsolescence in our aspirational society. The descript project was born from books rescued from a rainy day on a nature strip, imagining the souls who had thumbed pages and engaged with these stories on their own human journey. The portraits which ensued, created over 5 years, are underpinned by a collection of vintage objects passed on, or found in hard waste, op shops, and second-hand book shops.

Painting and drawing the figure from life has always been the backbone of Fyfe’s art practise. A representational painter, Fyfe works in oils in front of her subject in a time frame of 3.5 hours, in a technique known as alla prima (at once). Research of this alla prima technique has revealed to Fyfe the importance of this painting procedure in Australian art history and its effectiveness in telling a current story. Vital to her own portrait work, alla prima provides an in-the-moment experience which holds in its embrace the atmosphere, the cultural environment, the artist and the sitter, and produces an historical record of an event in time. Fyfe has come to believe that this spontaneous painting process can also be a window into the emotion associated with a moment in time.  Fyfe’s works in forthcoming painting projects further investigate this contention. 

Throughout Fyfe’s current works, found objects are chosen for their interesting content and for their appearance. Fyfe is continually challenged by the paint’s behaviour on the surface and the often vibrant colour of the substrate but, most of all, by her time limit. Decisions are made ‘spur of the moment’ and paint tones are subject to muddying when working at speed. It is necessary to use less medium and stiffer brushes to compensate. Fyfe employs loose line work in some areas to give an impression of form without detail. 

Fyfe is inspired by the loose work of our Australian plein air painters from the 19th and 20th century such as Ethel Carrick, Tom Roberts and Phillips Fox as well as the line work and emotionally charged images of Toulouse Lautrec. Occasionally she will allow her work to be directly influenced by the book on which it is painted. For example, in ‘Cézanne’s Composition’ (p32) Fyfe mimics Cézanne’s technique of using cool colours to make shapes recede, and in ‘The Italian Drawings’ (p30) Fyfe uses a burnt sienna colour to affect the pen and ink of Renaissance sketches. In some instances, Fyfe references the artist via both the painting and the story. For example, in ‘Toulouse Lautrec’ (p56), Fyfe uses cool turquoise on the human form as an homage to the bar lighting from Lautrec’s interiors. In doing so, she draws comparisons between the sitter Megan’s story and Lautrec’s own relationships. 

descript is also a reimagining of the 15th and 16th Century Renaissance art experience. A renaissance painting might, at first glance, be a lifelike rendering of a subject yet, on further inspection, yield a message using motifs and symbols such as a skull suggesting finality, lilies for purity, dogs for fidelity and so on. Paying tribute to these traditional oil paintings, descript presents a resemblance to organic biology, enabling an innate connection with the viewer, however the art can also be ‘read’ by the viewer. The descript paintings communicate our environmental burden through their recycled origins and, through printed and encoded stories, their social message of connection.

 

Recently, Fyfe has been reaching back into her family history and her connection to the Limestone Plains around Canberra, home of her maternal Ngunnawal ancestor. Fyfe feels that she is a combination of cultures. A mixture which, indeed reflective of contemporary Australia, is also present in her artwork. Fyfe allows her lineal ties to inspire a curiosity and sensitivity to country and, on occasion, influence her selection of books and portraits.

In February 2020, Fyfe was introduced to an exhibition visitor who used a wheelchair and learned that his view of the paintings was distorted because of his restricted height. Viewing further from the wall improved this but made detail impossible to see. This chance meeting has influenced Fyfe’s work immeasurably. Hence, thinking about accessibility in all forms, the descript works are presented in ‘frames’ on the wall as a traditional painting but they are also able to be removed from their shelf and touched which acknowledges their origin and enables engagement by all exhibition visitors. 

descript is an invitation to a contemporary audience to engage not only visually but also emotionally with the art of portraiture and the stories it conveys. 

alla prima - an historical record of Australia

francis chiara.jpeg
uncle jack.jpeg
diana monster.jpeg
gustav herbie.jpeg
western sukvir.jpeg
mia.jpeg
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IMG_8887.jpeg
ISIMG-613113.jpg
nick cezanne.jpeg
william wonders.jpeg
organozinc.jpeg
toulouse megan.jpeg
david kindle.jpeg
rod splendid.JPG

examples of painting and accompanying story

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