A response to Mia Rappel's The Passage,

by Jess Huon. May 2011.

Thinking of this artist's work, I am often hit with an image of her large body of calico and wax forms hanging, over a decade ago, from the roof in the corridors of the Art school at Melbourne University. Dyed in natural colours, they looked like the faded, discarded robes of old monks whose bodies had slowly faded out, or sacks of empty skins (from which nymph-like creatures had only recently fled). Delicate and mysterious, the simplicity of their presence, inspired by the artist's walks through the Victorian bush, omitted a subtle protest (without necessarily meaning to) against the solidity and certitude of the building's stately walls, our fixed viewpoints, our anxieties, our lives. The work hung in stark contrast to the other students' noisier works - often mouthpieces for some personal dilemma or political viewpoint.

Mia Rappel's works, like nature, exist as something in themselves, for themselves.

The same keen and visceral responsiveness to nature is felt viewing these new works, (largely inspired by the artist's meanderings through the French countryside). The artist's body and imagination collide with the organic matter she roams through, extracting the inner mood of a place and birthing a new, felt, multi-layered vision. Describing working on her Studies of Nature ink and pencil drawings, Rappel says - You go in and come back out from the inside. These elemental works, marked with flowing and undulating lines, all work within a creamy, skin-coloured background. Take rocks, for example, the artist informs, seemingly solid, yet I've always felt them as wildly dynamic, formed in response to so many hidden conditions. There's a rhythm you start to look for there.

Rappel continues to experiment with different materials - paper, ink, pencil, gouache, photography, and resin, to capture and reinvent moods concealed in both nature and herself. In one Study of Nature ink drawing, chestnut trees are essentially stripped bare to singular flowing lines. In The Passage & Flux collages, the same cluster of trees is photographed in their full form; yellow leaves exploding out of branches. As in the other collages, the finely worked forms of paper respond to the cut photographed strips of nature and spaces; delicate fibres brush below the chestnut grove - like a held-in sigh released. Small lyrical buoyant circles rise above, adding to the joie de vivre vibe of this particular work.

In the collages, minute details and disparate elements coalesce, revealing the multiplicity of experience inherent in one moment. Looking close into the compositions of colour, you find (among many other surprises) the darker gathering of skin around a woman's nipple, a strip of Spanish sky, the fur in the hollow of an armpit, a hand-forged cross of wood etched with Latin engravings. Square strips of steaming wet naked skin create a fiery line of colour. An eruption of cloud (or is that the Franklin River?) hovers in the centre of one work.
Brewing clouds lit by sun swirl into the dip of the artist's bared skin.

The labour-intensive paper shapes morph . . . like melting puzzles? Plasma? Multiplying cells? A rush of fishes?. In these works, whether held in galactic black or pale background, or actual space, lines and forms pull towards each other, creating a sense of gravity and dynamism.

In the last work, Vines, it is as if the paper shapes held in under the collages have flown out and multiplied. The repetition and detail in this work contains the patience of prayer, creating a supple, dancing form lightly twirling through space.

Mia Rappel | 0403 778 657 | hello@miamia.biz www.miamia.biz | melbourne australia