“A painting has to speak for itself…..” Kevin Connor
Yesterdays visit to the Art Gallery of NSW was beautiful. Sydney was warm, bright and crisp. I was at the gallery before the droves of school children with books and pencils. I envied them sitting on the cool morning grass opposite in the Botanic Gardens, eager to see the portraits.
I never did that as a child and I wondered how different my life would have been had I seen this painting when I was 10.
Dane Lovett‘s work “The Island” (pictured above) spoke to me as Kevin Connor ‘s quote, next to his Wynne entry. Lovett’s was a finalist in the Sulman Prize for genre painting and I guess initially it was his handling of paint that drew me in. Beautiful deft loose brushwork, purposeful yet an ease. The more I studied it, the more it spoke. Lost technologies and change were the greater issues and his still life arrangement of past ephemera was composed to resemble an island. It tugged my heart-strings. Perhaps it was looking at the children with their books open, excited. Maybe it was the smell of oil paint, the Dylan album or the video itself The Island. From memory it was movie based on the Island of Dr Moreau, a haunting story that had always felt macabre but close to reality. I couldn’t help but think we are producing Moreau-type monsters with paint in the Archibald, large soulless heads bearing down on us.
Kevin Connor’s large looming work also had that element of mystery, paradise swathed in dark lit only by the moon. A wonderful work in restraint with a myriad of underdrawing that feeds his work and gives it strength. I was impressed with many works in the Wynne this year and the Archibald held the usual shock and awe.
The beautifully sad self-portrait of Jenny Sages “After Jack” but for me it was another mysterious painting by Melissa Egan of Charles Blackman that held my attention. Once again beautiful handling of paint and that Moreau-ish intrusion of nature -a portrait hanging in the landscape.
I guess the unexpected warmth of May yesterday may have led to some disquiet in my choice of works and my yearning for earlier times. Maybe it was reading Patti Smith’s biography on the train or I wanted to be a crossed-leg school girl in a dark blue hat, an exercise book to draw in and a cool floor to sit on surrounded by looming faces made of paint.