2015  PhD Understanding an Intuitive Approach to Abstract Painting [Monash University]


The studio practice undertaken during the period of my PhD candidature is given historical, conceptual and practical context through an exploration of the work of selected painters who have practised over the past century: Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Raoul De Keyser, Mary Heilmann, Tomma Abts and Emily Kngwarreye. I share with these artists an interest in the use colour, pattern, movement, the natural world and abstraction. The study of these artists provides a framework to investigate five key themes that arise when considering their practice: the poetic, doubt, the provisional, the performative and gestural. In this study I also refer to the critical and theoretical ideas related to these themes, in particular the writings of Clement Greenberg. I consider his emphasis on the flatness of the canvas, whether the work is abstract or representational, and his views on medium specificity. From this study I have found that abstract painting does not exhaust the possibilities of these themes but generates new prospects.


2010 Robert Nelson The Ghoulish Art of Witchcraft [The Age]

Artists are magicians, conjurers and witches; if a work lacks magic, audiences are instantly bored. Theorists have compared the ancient art of painting to alchemy, and when we look at a painting we expect to see transformation in action.

Anna White practices a suspicious kind of white magic by techniques of smearing paint over slippery perspex. Her small fields of colour at Place Gallery reveal the deceitful characteristics of paint in folding different layers into one another. Called Away…Towards, the exhibition seems to rip paint apart, as if tearing at the spectrum inside it, fragmenting the integrity of a formerly solid mixture and spreading out its component colours in staggered reverberations as the paint shudders at its own innards. Peeling the hues out of their medium reveals heretical contempt for the divinity of light.


2010 Ruth Learner Casting Space Room Sheet [Place Gallery]

(see link above)


2010 Penny Webb Box Office The Age [Melbourne] Magazine

Who cares whether I’m standing or sitting as I key-in these words; whether the radio is on; or whether I down tools in frustration and go out and strike up a conversation on the footpath with my surly neighbour. You do? You want to know about people at work? Pictured above is Away Towards, 2010, by mid-career Melbourne painter Anna White who wants to tell you about her way of working. “I experiment with the application of coloured oil paint to the surface of Perspex, which I then manipulate, blur and blend to the accompaniment of recorded music.” Have you ever been to a studio that didn’t have a sound system? The material object, not the choreography of the studio, is more truly our concern. White’s flattened and dragged blobs of pigment are accepted by the viewer as the result of purposive activity. Presumably, White wants them to be aesthetically pleasing and to challenge the viewer as the result of purposive activity. They succeed on both counts.


2008 Ross Moore Sticky Point [The Age]

Steeped in the avant-garde traditions of action, abstract-expressionist and performance painting. Melbourne artist Anna White explores viscosity in her own way. On small sheets of variously tinted perspex she daubs, smears and manipulates with virtuosic finesse the wet body of oil paint. Less concerned with its gross materiality than its theatrical ability to invoke intuitive gesture, rapid drama and infinitely subtle transitional states, she bids, using scrapers and other tools, paint to compose the painting. Sometimes the result is unexpectedly like flickering, swarming electro-static fields, at others like strangely volatile beds of flowers seeking to cohere against forces of intense speed


2008 Megan Backhouse Art Around the Galleries [The Age]

Like soundwaves, Anna White’s paint zigzags and ricochets along her acrylic sheets sometimes all frothy and volatile and other times lightly reigned in so that the effect is almost digital. Where most of these paintings are thickly worked in such a way that plays up the plasticity of her medium, others are marked with only occasional daubs of paint, with much of the sheet left transparent and so highlighting the shadows being cast on the wall


2008 Leslie Eastman Soft Edge/Hard Edge Room sheet [Place Gallery]

How should one write about painting? Painting sufficient in itself not to require words. Painting that is about an entire world of the visual. A language of colour, forms and processes.

 Consistently, most evenings and several days of the week, Anna is working. The studio is the crucible for the working process. This process is a durational experiment, one of spontaneity, of trial and error, developed and refined over time. At the most elemental level these works are of and about the indexical trace of action. These works revel in the condition of their making and their meaning resides in this making. The process withdraws the mark of the artist’s hand, distances it within the field of chance phenomena, but it is never too far away. A benign deity that clearly is watchful of the outcomes of the evolutionary pattern.

 The pleasure of looking at these paintings is in a re-experiencing of the process by which they were made, and the recovery or the allusiveness of this origin. In this respect the works produce a double attention: a kind of time based viewing, a monotype of events.

 The works abound with ideas and images of the temporal. Many of the paintings are produced in a performative manner to music and they embody this particular origin in wonderful cascading rhythms that at once denote music and connote also the movement and intensity of pulse. They are ‘records’, produced by the intensive states of listening and embodying music. Others are slower, full of still points or singularities of intensity: cosmological beginning points, awakening, the silence of snowfall. 

 Contrasts between this silence and intensity are spatial as well as temporal. At various points the works suggest a space folding like the valleys and peaks of sound waves. How this is done is mysterious, the works vibrate, undulating in and out of focus, like the focal distortions of a shallow depth of field in photography. They function as both image and artefact, with selected works produced on both sides of a transparent/opaque perspex surface. A complex pictorial space is created in the works through the dissolution of the perspex ground.  The artist has created a painted film of the actual and pictorial. The paintings become continuous with the contingent transient space of the world.

 Anna White’s paintings are at once a record and an image of the intuitive. For Bergson it is through the intuitive that we can approach the enduring universe of invention, the creation of forms, the continual elaboration of the absolutely new[1]. These paintings, monotypes of the present and the past, moving still, at once depict and embody this state of unforeseeable unfolding novelty.


[1] Bergson, Henri. 1944. Creative evolution. New York: The Modern Library. P.14


2005 Kit Wise Paintings Room Sheet Room Sheet [Watson Place Gallery]

(see link above)


2004 Penny Webb White Brings Pressure to Bear [The Age]

Some artists forgo the seductiveness of unmediated mark-making, preferring mechanical means. Others further efface their personalities by embracing chance. Anna White does both. Her impressions are made by loading a sheet of glass with paint and pressing an acrylic sheet down on to it. The surprisingly organic- seeming reticulations that result when the top sheet is peeled back are then appraised for their aesthetic effect by the artist, who modifies colours and paint consistencies for the next sheet. Only an artist as gently tenacious as lichen on a rock and as respectful of the material world as White would enjoy working "in partnership" with her materials in this way. It's a salutary show.


2003 catherine de saint phalle john & anna room sheet [horti Hall]

Horti Hall Gallery 18.03.03 – 29.03.03
When I was a child, someone told me stained glass windows were made of blood, bird feathers, rubies, sapphires, woman's milk - and some pomegranate seeds.
Every time I looked at stain glass windows, I knew they were alive. Alive like the dreams I had at night - and owls and secrets and midnight feasts.
Unrepentant, unforgiving, their splashes of colour said something about another world - so close it made you shiver.
Their very thickness, the weight that oozed from their dim brightness, made them even more alive than skin that hurts when you burn or graze it. Eyes that peered and flashed were only shadowy in comparison.
Stained glass windows are thresholds. They have a sway on two worlds. Not a shadowy ghostlike one, but a more than real, more than flesh, more than sight, two way grip. They could see inside and outside. They could let you in and let you out.
In cathedrals, they filter the light of day in such a way that whether it's midday or late afternoon they have the same tapered intensity of brightness. It's the light of an in-between world, a light for understanding what you can't see in the brash sunlight. Yet it's a brighter experience altogether.
I couldn't say a word about Anna White's work except it reminds me of stained glass windows.

You can still see people - yet they have just left. Or when they are there, you can feel the space that their absence will fill.
Sometimes presence is eerie when someone is on the doorstep. She or he seems still there, yet they are phantoms or clones, their real selves are already on the bus or at their job.
Sometimes in the middle of a conversation, they can also disappear. Half of their face is gone, eaten away by strange, weaving thoughts. Or sunlight can play tricks on their bodies and hide and seek them away from you.
Sometimes they have really and truly left but their boots are there, which have kept every crease, every angle of their stride or the particular way they stand. The boots have captured some essential part of them. So you walk around the boots because you don't want to break the charm. They contain a world, in the same way an atom contains the entire bodies' information.
Sometimes reality crashes around our ears. What have we got left, what have we got to choose from? Pieces, fragments that say how alone we are.
Yet, sometimes a lonely fragment can speak only of love.
John McKinnon paintings have captured that feeling for me.