ABOUT THE ARTIST
Heather Betts is a Melbourne based artist who has studied with Grant Bentley. She has contributed her talent to the books Soul & Survival and Homœopathic Facial Analysis as well as the images for the facial wizard and famous people on this site.
‘In my paintings, I am primarily interested in describing the human condition, and how that presents itself in different stories or circumstances. I often work from the librettos of various operas, which stylise interconnected human drama, but also from current real stories and personal experiences, in order to recognise the mutuality in human response.
Ideally, the paintings are about this common humanity that we share just below the surface and the laws of Nature and instinct. I am particularly fascinated and amazed by our commonality as homo sapiens, covering all races and times in history, in a sense linking us now to every other that has been or is yet to come.
A baby now, grasping at its mother’s face, concentrated and intent with that imprinted and bonded image, has the same, the very same grasping that babies have had in all time, rich or poor, in all corners of the globe. Similarly, the emotions, so precise, so finely tuned, are born of the same paths, physically and psychologically. So that despite the differences that divide the world and keep it in debate, in the human space, there are no differences at all.
I construct my pictures in layers. It is important to me that underlying events in the painting are evident, that light has the opportunity to pass through different colours and gestures and spring back, setting them in vibration with each other.
The palette is often vibrant, the primary and secondary colours for me often symbolising the mood as one is immediately energised or pacified by certain hues but also by the varying intensity of the pigments. There is a musicality inherent in the colours that we see and just as music can be discordant or harmonious, so too do the corresponding colours work together to challenge the eye, behaving as a catalyst for feeling.
There are recurring symbols and gestures; the portrait standing alone, or the figure curled up, which is a motif that not surprisingly first appeared in my work while I was pregnant, but has remained as a symbol of innocence. It is this aspect of our origin back to these primordial forms that puts a tough and threatening adult into perspective, knowing that even in their own recent personal history, they floated around too, innocent and pure. It is a symbol with which I want to invite the viewer; the subject and the predicament back to a connectedness, a cleaner slate if you will. These accompanying figures are also spirits, ancestry guiding the subject or influencing the issue in some way.
Symbols include crosses and circles which are about centring, not necessarily evocative of Christian symbolism but have been interpreted as so. For me, they also suggest a symmetrical element, one of balance and intersection. Commonly, rectangular shapes are an important compositional technique to earth or ground figures and lines that freely move about the surface. These structures also offer the subjects a psychological groundedness, particularly in pictures where the subject matter is dealing with existentialism or a state of mind outside the here and now.
Animal motifs bring their own connotations, and may even relate specifically to players in the story. Images of horses, wolves, birds, snakes or beasts immediately charge a picture environment with their own innate strengths and weaknesses, having developed, as with our own, in the evolution of survival. They offer also an emotional rawness, unencumbered as we are, with speech.
Together with oils and charcoal, I use sand and sandpapers which offer natural tones and something fundamental, as well as texture on which to suspend drawing. Human hair is such a delicate and personal part of my media too, as are X-rays, which take one through a window into that which we know is there, but don’t see. Again, that which is universal to us all.
It is highly suggestive painting and I prefer it to function as a mirror would, despite its origins being from a specific text or occurrence. Sometimes, its primary purpose is indeed to bypass the mind for now and to touch on a spontaneous reaction from the heart.’
To see more of Heather’s work please visit www.heatherbetts.net
To purchase Soul & Survival click here