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Title
Water Lilies in Rainforest

Location
In storage

Place of origin
New South Wales, Australia

Media
Painting

Medium
Oil

Credit
Winner Calleen Award 1990

Accession number
CAL1990.1

Excerpt from The Calleen Collection by Peter Haynes (2019)

Merritt is another instance of there being essentially no references to her or her work in any of the standard Australian texts, artist dictionaries or auction records. Her work Water Lilies in Rainforest was one of 46 in the 1990 Prize, one of the majority artists working in oils, and of tackling the ubiquitous theme of the Australian landscape. It exemplifies that while the landscape may dominate subject matter, the individual aesthetic languages of artists produce many ways of looking and interpreting. These excite and provoke viewers’ imaginative responses to a theme that continues to contribute to the ways that Australians see themselves and their nation.

Merritt’s painting is lush and rich. There is a sense of nature’s fecundity in the densely packed reeds, and the fulsome trees beyond the pond. The latter occupies the front of the picture plane, its surface reflecting the reeds and other foliage and the background sky. The example of Monet is difficult to avoid given the painting’s subject-matter and title. However, and as one would expect, there are substantial differences, aesthetically and conceptually. Monet’s waterlilies are about light and the manner in which it dissimulates surface creating essentially abstract images in which while the motif is present that motif is not preeminent. Merritt’s work is defiantly about her subject-matter. The tonal richness she infuses into this work is a celebration both of the beauty of the Australian rain forest and the power of the activity of painting.