I smelt John R Walker’s paintings before I ever saw them. I have a feeling it was the Wynne and whatever else was there that year was eclipsed by his work for me. Luscious, precarious oil seemingly hanging from the canvas. Later at a group show in Hazelhurst Gallery I saw his gouaches and scribbled in my sketchbook “JR Walkers Bare bones of a painting.”, a reminder to myself to consider my subject before being seduced by the oil.
Little did I think I would be at Bundanon in a studio adjoining where JR Walker had given thanks to Arthur Boyd in paint. When given access to the wonderful Boyd archives, I had carefully slid a painting out to reveal Gary’s (the caretaker and great guy) thonged feet and lower limbs akin to a great white fleshy twisted gum left by Walker.
Years later I still find his work gives me the same thrill. This current exhibition at Utopia Gallery: Winter in the Fire Forest feels like his gouache and oil have collided. The bare bones are now the oils. His titles indicate that his East has met West and there is definitely a paring down to the essence of landscape and the familiarity of the subject. Small delicate twists of lavenderish oil over grey-green feel tenuous but confident. I imagined myself back in Braidwood, in the landscape, back in Bundanon by the Shoalhaven a grey green wash of oily history in paint.