A review of Gleaner or Gladiator: the struggle to create by Lyne Marshall

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
Gleaner or Gladiator: the struggle to create
By Lyne Marshall
Forward Dr Gilbert Burgh
ISBN 978-0-9803279-0-08, 80pages, softcover, $44.00aud

Lyne Marshall’s artwork is striking. In bold, modernistic strokes, it combines the beauty of nature with a humanistic sense of the greater intensity hidden below the surface of things. Her book Gleaner or Gladiator is an interesting mixture between an art book which showcases her beautiful work—something you could easily display on a coffee table, and a philosophical treatise designed to explore the nature of artistic creation and provide a primer for other artists. As such, it’s an unusual hybrid – something not often seen.

The book is divided into chapters that focus on different aspects of the artistic process, or issues that confront the artist, from energy and action, to preparation and presentation. There are chapters on such topics as artists’ block, synchronicity, perseverance, on using symbols, research, motivation and meaning. Marshall treats these topics in a broad fashion, using them as a springboard to look at her own struggles with these notions and to brainstorm what they might mean in a broader context. Each chapter contains images from her work and the inspiration for her work – the natural world which surrounds her, along with reflections, occasional poetry, quotations, illuminations, and even some suggested activities to inspire particular creativity in this area.

Marshall’s prose is smooth, and although it has a tendency to switch between first, second and third person, that is, perhaps, the overall intention of the work (as it often is for artwork in general) – to explore the relationship between the personal and the universal:

Just as artworks can have many perspectives and work on many levels, so do the creators of art. The brain is like a sponge and will take in as much data as it is given and while you may not think it is absorbing the information, hopefully it will be recalled as needed. I can internalise complex sets of operations like driving a car and riding a bike, to the point where they become automatic, so when settled comfortably into painting mode, I go into overdrive, and lose track of learned responses. (66)

Throughout the book are sumptuous pictures, and there are times when, as viewer rather than reader, I wanted more – a whole page picture (or one of the Terraforme pictures hanging on my wall…); a hardcover format that would stay pristine longer; a coffee table book full of nothing but images. The Sub Rosa and Terraforme series are both gorgeous – featuring seascapes and rock formations in natural, vibrant colours that hint at something not easily put into words: the texture and complexity of life below our frame of vision. But reading Marshall’s journey from concept to creation is fascinating, and it is certainly of relevance to both the art lover and the artist. She lays her own journey out honestly, celebrating the successes and exploring those areas that didn’t work – struggling to create new meaning in both areas through the relationship between words and visual impressions. It isn’t always an easy thing to do, but Marshall has produced a work that is an important addition to the aesthetic canon, and a pleasurable read full of both heady insights and lovely images.

The book ends with a bibliography that it, itself, an interesting mixture of influences, from artist Paul Klee to poet Graham Nunn to creativity guru Eric Maisel, along with recommended reading. The book is attractive and inspiring and would make a terrific gift for anyone working in any aspect of the arts. It’s also nice enough to give to someone who just enjoys looking at the work and thinking about its origins.

About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball is the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, and Quark Soup.