Denise M Taylor

Writing Consultant I Editor I Proofreader

Nature is being exploited by a greedy world; its original abundance is now close to exhaustion. Artist Nita Jawary celebrates the power of nature to replenish itself in her new exhibition, ‘Exuberance! A celebration of nature in paint’. Nita greets me at the door of the Leo Baeck Arts Centre in Kew with her usual penetrating gaze, yet kindly disposition. Surrounding her are paintings of all sizes with a mixture of painting mediums and techniques; but do they all convey exuberance? I want to know if Nita consciously magnifies nature, because there are no broad-sweeping landscapes that remind the viewer of nature’s overwhelming grandeur.


The feature painting of this exhibition, Exuberance! (featured image, 2006, oil on canvas, 100 x 120cm), is an expressive appreciation of the beauty of flowers. Nita explains that this is not a painting of a specific flower, but of an idea of a flower, and a sense of exuberance. She wanted the colours to be subtle, but the red, stamen-like brushstrokes add strength and vitality. These days there is so much ugliness in the world that humans are becoming insensitive to much of life’s organic beauty and rhythm. From the beginning Nita challenged herself not to paint anything ugly or dark but to look for the beauty in life.

“I chose the work Exuberance! as the title piece [of this exhibition] because it expresses how I feel about life, about nature, about art. I believe Exuberance! is the last work I’ve painted in oils. While I love the lusciousness of oils, the malleability, the smooth blend of colours, I’m afraid the brushes are a devil to clean. Most of all I love working in acrylics for their speed [of application]. They dry quickly, so you can layer quickly. I can finish a work in one or two sessions. They fit in with my lifestyle. By the same token, it is no accident that I write short stories as opposed to novels.”

Nita Jawary, ‘In the Wind’, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 46 x 92cm.

Nita Jawary, ‘In the Wind’, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 46 x 92 cm.

Capturing a fleeting moment in nature requires impressionistic techniques that involve the rapid application of brushstrokes onto the canvas. Nita’s painting, In the Wind, attempts to represent the effects of wind by using a palette knife to anchor the plant or branch within the frame, yet there is a sense of movement. In most cases, Nita does not paint en plein air;  instead, she paints in her studio, attempting to recapture her memory of standing before nature. Accordingly, Nita’s paintings of nature are her spontaneous notation of a ‘felt’ experience. When Nita painted In the Wind she recalled special times when she sat with her daughter watching Playschool on the television and singing: Who can see the wind? Although Nita’s painterly reflection of the animation of nature is a celebration of life, I can’t help thinking about the growing inanimate and synthetic abundance in the world. At once familiar and unsettled, Nita’s paintings of nature emphasise the fragility of life, as if we’re harrowed by time, just like autumn leaves are scattered by the wind.

Waves are a powerful reminder of the force of nature with their rhythmic, rolling movement. Standing on a beach looking out to sea beyond the waves is a sublime experience that has the ability to revitalise the human soul.

Nita Jawary, ‘Where to Stand When the Tide Comes In?’, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 170 cm.

Nita Jawary, ‘Where to Stand When the Tide Comes In?’, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 170 cm.

Nita recalls painting Where to Stand When the Tide Comes In?:

“I’d been invited to afternoon tea. But I was drawn to that big canvas there and then. I began painting and kept going: fast, fast. I didn’t want to be late for my friends. I imagined myself standing on the shore as the waves rushed forward and flooded it. And I took it as a metaphor for life. You have to tread carefully—watch where you stand lest you are overwhelmed.

Well, I was late for coffee, but not by much.”

Nita Jawary, ‘Snow’, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 75 x 102 cm.

Nita Jawary, ‘Snow’, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 75 x 102 cm.

Nita tells me that some works take longer for her to paint. Snow “grew gently and slowly, despite the fact that it is a smaller work”. Here there is drama: the representation of snow can be identified as soft white dabbing with a striking overlay of vertical brushstrokes running down the horizontal canvas. There are no signs of human life in the paintings on display, even though Nita has a wide circle of friends and colleagues; the focus is entirely on the abundance of nature—magnified. This conscious decision by the artist to reject human intervention in her celebration of life generates a meditative opportunity for the viewer that is self-effacing and ephemeral, placing the spectator within the paintings by proxy.

I visited this exhibition on a wintry Sunday afternoon when Nita was hosting a special event. We were treated to a wonderful musical performance by cantor, Michel Laloum, and cantorial soloist, Galit Klas, with accompaniment by Maurice Duband. Nita explained why she paints, emphasising the importance of expressing one’s creativity within an increasingly commercial world. “A creative person will always find something to create”, and although Nita’s background was in teaching and journalism, she always wanted to paint. In 2003 Nita began to set up objects in her garage for still life painting and in 2004 she illustrated The Perpetual Table, her family story that centred on Judeo-Babylonian cuisine. Many of those illustrations were exhibited at the Leo Baeck Arts Centre’s inaugural exhibition in 2004. Today, ten years after that first exhibition, Nita has returned with Exuberance! 

Nita Jawary, ‘Growth’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 16 pieces.

Nita Jawary, ‘Growth’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 16 pieces.

The most recent painting in this exhibition is Growth. Nita explains the idea that compelled her to paint this 16 piece work.

“If a tree gets cut back it struggles to live, but most come to life again when you least expect it. You can hang this work any way: 16 pieces in a line, or a circle, or in a square with spaces between. The ‘tree’ will grow, whichever way you hang it. There is a little bird in one of the squares with a hint of song.”

Although this painting reflects Nita’s infectious optimism for the future of nature, I read Growth as humanity’s degradation of the natural environment and our reckless carving up and clearing of land that has resulted in the disappearance of many species of animals and birds. Despite my pessimism, Nita Jawary’s intimate paintings of nature provide a welcome opportunity to connect (or reconnect) with the glorious chaos of nature’s creative exuberance that draws out life’s essential, unstoppable rhythm from life to death. There is no need for a painterly view of a sweeping landscape—the essence is in the detail.


Exuberance! A celebration of nature in paint

 Nita Jawary, the artist

Until 20 September 2014

Leo Baeck Arts Centre, 37 Harp Rd. Kew East

Weekdays, 10.30am-1.30pm

All paintings are for sale.

Categories: Musings on Art

5 Responses so far.

  1. Nita Jawary says:

    Dear Denise
    This is a very sensitive and insightful review. I am very moved.
    Your review encapsulates the message behind my art and why I paint.
    Thank you
    Nita Jawary

  2. Denise says:

    My pleasure, Nita.I hope you keep on painting with exuberance.

    • Nita says:

      Thank you Denise. So do I! And please put me on your list for notifications of new articles on your most informative website.

      • Denise says:

        Thanks for your interest in my articles, Nita. On the right hand column of my website, between the blue Twitter bird and Amazon books, you will see a box where you can enter your email address to receive immediate notifications of future posts. I am currently writing a review of TarraWarra’s Biennial 2014.

  3. Patricia Wiltshire says:

    Like Denise, I wanted to ask ‘why exuberance?’ when I visited this exhibition. But it was on a week day when no one else was present so I had to rely on the paintings and my own aesthetic experience of such things. While Nita’s paintings expressed her enjoyment of nature and her own personal experiences of nature which she explains in words, I was expecting paintings that ‘spilled over’ with paint and ideas in a way that would convey itself immediately to the eye by their ‘exuberance’. On further inspection of the paintings I was struck more by Nita’s ‘spontaneous notation of a felt experience’, her quiet reflection on some subject matter in the smaller works and her impatience and ability to capture personal experiences in the moment. As a friend I enjoyed the experience and the sharing of her creativity. Thank you, Nita.

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