Bethany Saab ‘Fresh Familiar’ (20-30 October)

Canberra-based emerging artist Bethany Saab started painting with intention in 2020. A practicing psychologist, Bethany holds no formal training in fine arts – yet she is quickly finding her place amongst Australia’s emerging artists to watch. Starting with two sold-out mini releases in 2020, Bethany went on to show her first solo exhibition with Michael Reid Northern Beaches in January 2021. Painting predominantly still life, Bethany’s paintings have been described as ‘intimate glimpses into personal spaces’ and as an example of ‘joyous expression’ through the use of pattern (Peter Haynes, The Canberra Times, May 2021).

Bethany was featured on the arts podcast Interview with An Artist in April 2021, as well as appearing in The Design Files ‘Emerging Painters you should know’; ArtEdit Magazine; and The Australian Newspaper ‘Inaugural Summer Exhibition’.

She has also participated in multiple group exhibitions in Australia and was Finalist in the Lethbridge 20000 Small Scale online award (2021) and the National Emerging Art Prize (2021).

“I’m interested in human perception and our own unique qualia. In my mind, there is a relationship between mood and how we see the world around us. Similarly, what we expose ourselves to- the natural and built environment, where we place our focus, and what we consume in arts and media- influences our overall outlook and perspective of the world around us. It goes full circle. The bright and fresh colours in my paintings are unintentional. I aim to paint realistically but they seem to turn out in their own way. I think I paint better when I’m feeling happy, I see the world as beautiful.

I paint familiar household items around my own home, and pay homage to the unplanned vignettes in daily domestic life. My painting practice is about pure appreciation of the things around us, and leaning into an intense observation of tone, form, and the substantiveness of the object. It’s about uncomplicated gratitude for one’s immediate surroundings, and a slowing down in each moment to observe the small beautiful things around us. A lot of that is in light, refractions and in shadow and the lines they take.

Our perception too can change as we train it. The more we look the more we see. Our attention is biased and depends on our frame of reference. When I started to work with flowers, I became incredibly attuned to the types of trees lining the streets around my neighbourhood, the plants changing with the seasons and the weeds growing in ditches on the roadsides- everything became in a new heightened focus.

Now that I paint, I see everywhere the shapes and shadows. I think about how I would mix a colour if I were to paint it. In looking, I see more. I notice more wonder in the most mundane moment- the long shadows of the groceries on the bench as I unpack them in the low afternoon sun. I observe the crumple of bedsheets after an afternoon nap, and accidental configuration of a box of treasures, the incidental arrangements that occur in everyday life that show a simple and uncomplicated beauty. Not just looking, but actually seeing those small things is a gift to ourselves that we can cultivate. Seeing all this is the gift painting has given me”.

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