In a previous life Cummings has been a wife and mother, she has resided in Glebe and in Florence. Now she is content to live alone with her dogs and her work, in a comfortable house of wood and mud bricks that seems to owe more to the natural environment than to human artifice. She paints in the daylight that streams in through the back windows of the house. From a verandah she looks out onto a gully in which several varieties of gum tree stand in familiar disarray. Large, blackened trunks still bear scars from the 1994 bushfires, joined by gangling saplings that strain upwards towards the sun. Brilliantly coloured parrots flit from one branch to the next. By late afternoon, this panorama of gums, rocks, grass trees, and sparse undergrowth, is bathed in a dappled light – revealing the soft greys, browns and greens that have found their way into so many of Cummings’s landscapes of the past decade.
In her 1996 survey, a work on paper, Shimmering light on the swamp (1992), signalled a breakthrough into a more intuitive and responsive style of working. In this picture, watery flicks of gouache dance across a stark, white surface that seems to exude light. Although Cummings uses a wide array of colours, each tone has its roots in the natural world, with the play of amorphous forms being held together by a tracery of lines as delicate as a spider web.Cummings’s major paintings of the past decade have been distinguished by their scarred, heavily-worked surfaces and complexity of colour. They are mostly landscapes, based on the bush in Wedderburn, or Currumbin in southern Queensland, where a parental holiday home is now occupied by the artist’s brother. Like Ian Fairweather, she prefers to work from memories – sometimes dating back to childhood – rather than in front of the motif. She makes numerous sketches but they serve mainly as a visual diary, helping her remember particular aspects of form and colour. In the studio her paintings take on a life of their own, inflected by the light or the weather, or simply by the artist’s mood. Cummings says that a small, dark picture of recent vintage, quite unlike anything else in the studio, was painted while she was feeling ill with a virus that dampened her spirits.
More than with most artists, the works of this reclusive and dedicated painter are an acquired taste. Yet once the connection has been made it could never be easily severed. If Cummings has been a slow learner or a ‘painter’s painter’, always behind the times and the fashions, it may be because she has an underlying certainty that time is on her side.( Andrew Frost artcollector.net.au )