April 11, 2013

Presented here are five new paintings from the studios of three of our leading artists.

In December last year and in early January this year fires swept through Geoff Dyer's home state of Tasmania. It has been well documented how destructive these fires were to Tasmanian homes, towns and forests. As is the case with so much of nature's fury, fire can be at once so devastating yet so visually stunning. With a well known love for the Tasmanian landscape, Dyer was inspired by the bushfires at Lake Repulse to create a series of paintings.

In "Lake Repulse, Fires" Dyer has taken up an aspect looking across the lake and centred what is the dominant element to the painting - the fire itself. In his composition Dyer has built an atmosphere of calm in three sections: the glassy surface of Lake Repulse; the clear skies above the fire; and the somewhat static haze of the settling smoke. Through these three planes the enormity of the blazing spectacle has cut a bold path, stretching the entire height of the work from the watery reflection up the column of billowing smoke with the fire its living heart.

Xiaoping Zhou has also presented me with a painting that has fire as its central theme and, subsequently, as its title.

Xiaoping has recently been experimenting with the techniques of dot painting (essence for me of not only Australian Aboriginal painting but also early Pointillism works by the likes of Georges Suerat) to create areas of vibrant colour within his subtly hued ink and acrylic compositions. In "Fire" Xiaoping has used bright reds, oranges and yellows to conjure the essence of flames dancing around the legs of the figures. By breaking the composition diagonally with the bright flames and the angle of the figures, Xiaoping has built a dynamic tension into the work giving it a sense of fluidity and movement. This is a wonderfully balanced and beautiful painting.

Xiaoping's second painting is entitled "Dragon", a large imposing diptych; the two canvasses span almost three metres. When I first saw this on the wall of Xiaoping's studio I was suitably stunned. This is a work unlike anything I had seen of Xiaoping's yet it carried so many of the characteristics of his art; the subtle washes through the rice paper; the bold brushes of ink; the familiar ochres. The subject itself though is different to what we have seen recently from this exceptional artist. Here Xiaoping presents a well-known Chinese motif in the dragon, its body coiling through the width of the painting. The dragon in Chinese culture is a mighty creature representing power, strength and also of good luck; indeed it was once the symbol of the Emperor. Xiaoping has painted it here in all its majesty.

Andrew Baines offers something different with his work. With his signature surrealist style "Conversation with Self" and "The Collision of Unyielding Reality" offers up a more introspective vision. In these paintings I see the corporately attired figure as an isolated individual; his suit a conformity to the masses; his appearance a cog in a greater machine. But alone he stands; whether in a group context or not he is removed from the next. Do you reject or relate to this persona? That is but one question these works throw up. Baines' enigmatic titles offer up abstract solutions to the presented image but it really is up to the viewer to determine a meaning or indeed non-meaning with what is presented. This is where I think Baines really succeeds as an artist; he produces works that asks questions of the viewer and that is a rare thing.