Margot was the Australian artist of the year-long Malaysia-Australia Visual Arts Residency in 2001.
Australian artist Margot Wiburd began her creative career as an advertising copywriter, followed by work as a producer’s assistant with ABC Television in Melbourne. After extensive language studies in Germany and Spain she returned to advertising for five years, working with Saatchi & Saatchi Compton in Madrid.
After a nine year absence, Margot returned to Australia to study art, graduating from RMIT with a Bachelor of Fine Art in 1989. Since graduation, steady development in painting has been complemented by a stimulating ten years assisting feature film director, Paul Cox, in a variety of roles, including a writing collaboration. During this period Margot was awarded a short tuition scholarship at the Academy of Realist Art in Seattle and was accepted into the Ecole Albert de Fois in France to study classical oil painting techniques for six months and a further three months the following year. A masterclass in portraiture followed with Jacob Collins in New York.
In 1998 a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada resulted in her first solo exhibition. Later that year, at the conclusion of work on a major feature film in Hawaii, Margot lived for a month in a beach shack on the outskirts of the remote settlement of Kalaupapa (a former leper colony) on the island of Molokai. The isolation, tranquility and overwhelming spirituality of her surrounds resulted in the first of her multi-panelled works combining figurative and abstract elements to create the mood of a particular place and time.
Several group shows and a further solo exhibition in Melbourne reveal a consolidation of the main features of her work: an exploration of space, calm and simplicity.
During her residency at Rimbun Dahan, Margot worked both in pastel on paper and oil on canvas, inspired by the abundance of natural resources at her disposal at Rimbun Dahan, by her travels within Malaysia, by the jade bracelets she so admires, and from still life. She considers the Rimbun Dahan residency to be one of the finest opportunities available world wide through which an artist can focus, take risks, grow and give themselves heart and soul to their work in an atmosphere of complete support and kindness, with the added interest of immersion into a challenging new culture.
The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi suggests that greatness exists in the inconspicuous, the minor, the hidden and the ephemeral. Pared down to the essentials, the beauty of things modest and humble can gain strength through understatement, creating a reverberation on a sensory level. Kandinsky spoke of the choice of that object corresponding to a vibration in the human soul. “As every word spoken rouses an inner vibration, so like-wise does every object represented.”
The French poet, Francois Ponge, writes: “A shell is a small thing, but I can exaggerate its size by putting it back where I found it on an expanse of sand. What I’ll do is to take a fistful of sand and observe the little that’s left in my hand after almost all of it has run through the interstices between my fingers; I’ll observe a few grains, then each grain, and not one of these grains will still seem a small thing; soon the form of the shell, this oyster shell or this razor clam, will impress me as an enormous monument, colossal and yet exquisite. Mysterious.”
I have attempted through my drawings and paintings to capture that intangible sense of something greater than ourselves that one can find in nature or in a carefully crafted object. I hope to engage the viewer’s intuitive love of beauty, letting his or her mind wander into the painted image, soak up the quiet space, go inward and beyond.
In Australia I draw sustenance from the ocean’s infinite horizon. When you sit by the sea, the clarity and expansiveness of the image can trigger haunting memories, dreams, emotions.
Here in Malaysia, as the lush surrounds of Rimbun Dahan’s fertile garden jostled for attention, my work became preoccupied with isolating elements from their prolific, competitive environment, separating them from the mass of sensory input, giving them space to breathe and convey a sense of their uniqueness. In a quest for peace, beauty and space, I found myself continually eliminating elements, reducing the images to a state of unencumbered simplicity.