With fresco, control is essential, the right moisture and drying time give the right quality of patterning, but the cracks themselves are endlessly random. Sarah Tomasetti has made this anicent technique, with its dialogue between control and chance, with its exquisite delicacies, with its breath-like transparencies, her own, using it as both structure and metaphor for her observations on matter and time.
Tomasetti is an observer, challenged by what she actually sees, mapping both solid form and ephemera for value. Time is intrinsic to her choice of subject matter and covers a spectrum of meaning from the sublime, with its long ecological and spiritual implications, to the intimate with its brief call, its blink in the cosmic scheme. She has painted the majestic Milford Sound mountain, the same one von Guerard rendered a century earlier, superimposing her techniques on his image, and examining minute shifts in terrain over a hundred years. She has painted the challenge-of-air itself, in the form of elusive cloud conditions, trying to hold on to the transient, but also with one eye on art history and the vexing question of Romantic relevance in the 21st century.
Are her cloud and mountain scapes representations of nature, pushing the poetic to its contemporary limit, or are they indicators of states of mind, filtered through nature, thinking about geological time and psychic weathers, about what has weight and what is untouchably fleeting? And what are the cultural implications of putting sublime landscapes back into are and standing there in the Marketplace with the beauty of her images intact, daring the viewer not to forget this?
These landscapes are charged with debate and took considerable courage as well as skill to make, but that bravado goes quiet when compared to the inner strength required to sustain her work-in-progress on the self portraits and domestic artefacts which follow on.
Why? Because these small regular, awkward, patiently observed and recorded notations of her self and her context came from what Kandinsky, long ago, called inner necessity. From addressing grand outer landscapes with dedications and consummate technique, the artist has turned, in a choreography of the heart, to inner movement and inner time.
Visual art does not usually wear its heart on its sleeve, at least not in these post modernist days crowded as the galleries are with mutated sows and genetically heaving Petrie dishes. Nor is Sarah Tomasetti throbbing to the public. Rather, this most recent work is a concentrated effort to go inward via observation, not memory, which is this case, would be too loose and too overpowering to sustain her self imposed task of mapping who she is.