"Azure Kingfishers" Oil on Canvas 77 x 84cm, 2007Anyone with an eye for nature, painterly wonders, things creatural and the life of art has no choice but to visit the exhibition Rita Hall Museum Studies 1969 - 2009 that's just opened at the SA Museum.
Retrospectives are always among the most fascinating of shows and this one is no exception. The range of work on display, the mastery in so many different mediums, and the lineaments of style and subject are all there enjoy.
Rita's great gift is to reveal the 'innerness' and 'otherness' of things that are everywhere around us - be they birds, stones or even blow flies. She doesn't do birds cutely perched or jaunty on the wing. Instead they are lifted into the orbit of art by graphic and compositional verve. At one level, the birds simply are what they are, rendered with fidelity to their characteristics and circumstance. In her most recent paintings they are humble bird 'skins' exhumed from drawers in the museum collection and presented singly and in groups.
At the same time however, the birds serve as meditative objects, poised in their anonymous pictorial space. Thus the paintings present formal arrangements but with many teasing twists. 'It's still-life Jim - but not as we know it.'
Tenderly realised, bright and beautiful - but somehow also shadowy and quirkily disturbing, these birds are always goading us with questions about mortality and the way we see things and 'collect' the world around us as we go. In their purity and sense of purpose the paintings carry echoes of the great Italian modernist Giorgio Morandi.
To be able to view Rita's works arrayed together - and with so many of their antecedents - is a rare thrill. The other moving aspect to the exhibition is the opportunity to bear witness to a lifetime of devoted work. Morandi said "Nothing is more abstract than reality." For more than 40 years Rita has been helping us celebrate this exquisite truth.
"White Browed Wood Swallow" 2006 Oil on Canvas 55 x 60cm