Mary Ann Runciman’s superb oil painting techniques are used to good effect in her boat paintings, landscapes, oil portrait painting and male and female figure drawing. Because Mary Ann enjoys drawing and painting the human figure she has further developed charcoal and pencil sketches to become semi-abstract compositions which juxtapose reclining male and female figures into compositions defined by their, often square, picture plane.
Born in Tanzania, Mary Ann studied oil painting techniques and art history at the University of Natal, followed by painting and printmaking courses in Adelaide and in Paris, where she studied anatomy and drawing.
Speaking recently about her art practice and choice of mediums, Mary Ann told me: “I prefer oil for it's body, richness and truth of colour when dry or wet. I use pastel, ink and charcoal too when drawing. Drawing has always been important to me since childhood; it was my favourite pastime."
The Confinement Series was entirely based on the numerous figure
sketches she had accumulated over the years. One day when she could no
longer close the map drawers, stuffed full of drawings, she decided to
put all this work to use.
The Confinement Series was begun during a period of restriction in Mary Ann's life. But she hasn't finished exploring the possibilities of this popular concept so continues to regularly work in that way.
Determined to develop as an artist, Mary Ann went to Paris specifically to undertake a course in anatomy for artists, not available elsewhere at the time. Her aim was also to copy masters' paintings in the Louvre and to visit and learn as much as possible about drawing and oil painting techniques in art museums.
A well recognised, traditional, method of learning painting is to copy the old masters, discovering in the process something of their figure drawing skills and wonderful oil painting techniques that one could not learn in any other way.
Mary Ann’s first choice was Leonardo da Vinci’s "Mary with Anne and the Infant Jesus" but the painting was being restored so she worked on copying "The Death of Sardanapolis" by Delacroix, a very difficult task, then the "Concert Champetre" by Titian/Giorgione.
She was better pleased with her efforts this time and learned an enormous amount. Lastly she copied "Le Mise au Tombeau" or "Descent into the Tomb" by Titian, grateful that other copyists at the Louvre helped her enormously.
Mary Ann's artist heroes are difficult to choose but she has great admiration for the innovative work of Cezanne in particular and for Scottish/Australian, Ian Fairweather. This now famous artist, who spent his latter solitary years on Bribie Island in Queensland, struggled all his life to paint essential truths about life in Asia and Australia, having adventured there and in most other countries of the world.
It is interesting to see the dedication with which Mary Ann has pursued her own art training and continued practice.
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A selection of paintings from the Confinement Series
"These works fall in between landscape and figure, suggesting movements that are near stillness, a gently teasing approach.
These are paintings that make us move beyond the bones of the land and the contour of body – almost as if maps of journeys yet to be undertaken.
The figures turn to smoke and stone, the wrinkles of the ground smile and the stories meld into the lay of the hills. We are among good friends here – early Pollock meets Fairweather – and it’s going to be a mighty fine day."
Ivan G Rehorek