This exhibition brings together the artists Martin Brown and Anthony White, both having worked independently on the artwork presented and have established a common point at which to contrast their different perspectives on painting. Both artists exploring a contemporary interpretation of art making in relation to a historical position, through their own individual explorations within the processes inherent in painting. Having originated from an outsider's perspective of place or more accurately a displacement. There is a fundamental search at the heart of both their art practice navigating their relationship to European heritage.
As Australians both artists look through a lens of a Western European colonial background, examine a shared historical and cultural point of departure, re-examine painting through a contemporary “re-exploration” of the varied historical modes within the broader painting tradition. To approach painting from a perspective of being “unencumbered” from the weight of the European tradition. It's from this perspective where you could argue there is a new purpose of being able “to learn to paint again” To discover a new language from the old, through depiction and exploration of place, having re-examined pictorial space and painted surface.
It is also not necessarily a question of nationality, but perhaps a contemporary condition. The result of living in an international world, we are all now interconnected within a global context. The contemporary condition is to be relocated, either physically or mentally, and then somehow to attempt a personal reconciliation of identity within this paradigm.
Martin Brown and Anthony White both studied at the National Art School in Sydney, Australia (NAS). A school that has now the unusual premise, of being focussed primarily on a studio based work practice. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of drawing, and art history alongside examination of your own work process. Although having studied at different times, it is through their current circumstances of now being located in Paris and London, two world European historical art centres, that they find themselves searching for a common present, an identity linked through a common past, and a common search for meaning within a broader western context. Although this core point of departure connects their positioning there are different approaches and outcomes that result from different examinations of different aesthetic values.
There is a common connection through rediscovery, at first hand, of old master works. This may be difficult to appreciate for someone who has grown up surrounded by the museums of Europe, but to someone who has only looked at the works through books or travelling exhibitions, limited local collections, and the local painting scene, to then be thrust into experiencing these works for the first time after many years of only seeing them in books has a “revelatory” quality that is not unlike seeing them for the first time. These are not old to an outsider but fresh experiences that offer clues to a deeper past and an active present.
However even though the work is concerned with a relationship to a past it is not by any means something that can be described as traditional, it is not attempting to recover techniques from the past but more looking at process and interpretation to then explore one's own aesthetic vision. The focus is on the pictorial problems that were being solved, not necessarily the answers that were given. The great works of the past were always concerned with a primary intent, not a secondary use of previous solutions that may bear no relationship to the pictorial problems that may have needed to be solved.
The importance of landscape painting, whether it be implied or described directly, it is a concern that is at the heart of Australian painting. There is an attempt to understand the “new world” in Australian painting that uses landscape, it is the attempt of the depiction of the unfamiliar, an attempt to understand where one is.
Both of these artists being Australian, placed within Europe, approach history as outsiders "displaced", unencumbered by the weight of tradition, and explore the genre of landscape and abstraction to approach one’s own meaning in a new place. Resulting in different varied aesthetic approaches with varied outcomes.
White's painting uses a system of organic structure, which is fluid and influenced by the elements of the land, and that is informed both by memory and observation. White aligns himself with the Australian history of painters such as Tony Tuckson taking an emphasis on the materiality to influence the image making process. In this body of work, through the observation and close inspection of historical paint surfaces that is, then informed via memory, incorporating a sense of complex history and bold gesture, searching for a purer whole rather than defining the particular. The echoes of landscape are somehow described more clearly through the bold gesture, amplified and imbued with complex language pertaining to the body in relation to the inhabited environment rather than just describing a particular illustrated moment.
Brown’s work is concerned with memory and perception. His works examine how we see the built environment through a filter of historical perceptions. These different perceptions become a layered vision, represented through different painterly modes. An architectural motif references a different period within a drawn design movement, combining and colliding with the language of modernity. The hard edge abstraction of modernism collides with pictorial pre-modern history of renaissance perspectival space, a piecemeal layering of modernist interruptions that evolve across the panorama of the city. Although quite literal in depiction and carefully drafted Brown’s paintings are in reality complex mediations on the observation, depiction and history of the urban landscape, emphasising the melancholic nostalgia for the passage of time and the decay of things lost. They are as much about how we see, remember and paint the city landscape than how it is.