Important Women Artists
10 November 2021


born 1934

oil on canvas

84.0 x 91.5 cm

signed lower right: Cummings
signed, dated, and inscribed with title verso: Elisabeth Cummings / ‘Along the Track’ / 1994

Private sale

Hidden Valley Gallery, New South Wales
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from the above in 1995


The Easter Show, Hidden Valley Gallery, New South Wales, 8 – 30 April 1995, cat. 12
Elisabeth Cummings Survey 1965 – 1995, Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery, Sydney, 2 August – 8 September 1996

Catalogue text

Densely layered, chromatically and gesturally raucous, Cummings’ paintings are expressive responses to Sydney’s busy hinterland. Combining the grey-green tones so evocative of vegetation on the Australian East coast, with signature bold hues of yellow, red and purple, Cummings draws the viewer’s eyes on a journey through the picture plane, following the artist’s own steps through the painting’s eponymous track. Along the Track features the confident and considered gestures of a mature artist as she wrestles her way through the visual stimuli placed on picture plane and endowed with a life of its own.

A quiet and steady achiever in Australian art, Elisabeth Cummings has only recently started to receive the critical attention she has deserved over the last 60 years of untiring practice. A gestural and intuitive painter, Cummings has devoted most of her recent years to a semi-abstract style of landscape painting. Hitherto admired mostly by a select coterie of patrons and fellow artists, Cummings has recently been included in large survey exhibitions such as Destination Sydney in 2015, Know My Name at the National Gallery of Australia in 2021 and a second touring retrospective exhibition organized by Terrence Maloon of the ANU Drill Hall gallery in 2017, Interior Landscapes.1

In the 1970s, Cummings was a founding member of the artist community in Wedderburn, a semi-rural enclave south west of Sydney, along with fellow artists John Peart, Roy Jackson and Joan Brassil. A strong environmentalist concern motivated this project, with the artists determined to protect the sandstone bushland around the Georges River from further development. Cummings however suffered a devastating loss when her new studio in Wedderburn was razed by a bushfire in September 1994. Along the Track was painted earlier that year, and by virtue of its inclusion in an Easter exhibition and swift acquisition by the current owner, escaped this destructive blaze.

Using the rugged landscape around her studio in Wedderburn as a point of departure, Along the Track becomes a painting about the act of painting rather of a subject, a call-and-response hierarchy within Cummings practice noted by John McDonald.2 A dialogue between shapes and colours animates both Cummings’ painting process and the viewer’s perception of the finished work. Alive with varied and competing gestures, the marks of Cummings’ hand are layered organically, through a process of placing, scraping back, rebuilding of the painted surface. The resulting grainy and chalky surface, with sinuous lines scratched into the fresh paint with the back of the paintbrush carries the weight of each iteration, its palimpsestic traces peeking through inconsistently throughout the plane. It is the richness of this mysterious alchemy that has endured within Cummings’ paintings and identified her as a unique and powerful voice in the history of Australian art.

1. Cummings’ first survey retrospective was held in 1996 at Campbelltown City Art Gallery, and included Along The Track
2. McDonald, J., ‘Elisabeth Cummings’, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 10 June 2017