Four of the Best

Cornelia Burless, Christian Morrow, Jack Pemble, Jodie Wells

February 23 - March 9 2013

Four of the Best showcases the innate vitality of contemporary painting through the very diverse approaches of four artists. Pushing aesthetic boundaries both visually and in the use of materials, Burless, Morrow, Pemble and Wells seek to communicate their private visions. The broad spectrum of creative expression extends our own perceptions of reality, encouraging us to see and experience in new, imaginative ways.

Cornelia Burless

Cross-cultural linking and art history informs Cornelia Burless' finely rendered, realist paintings. "I have been interested in 17th century Dutch Still Life for some time now," says the Bavarian born and raised artist. "I am intrigued by how some inanimate, once living things or just portions of bodies can impart meaning beyond what we see - a glimpse of something else." Her Still Life With Duck (after Utrecht) pays homage to the Flemish painter Adriaen van Utrecht. Suffused in vanitas implication and chiaroscuro, the work echoes his portrayal of game set upon a table. While Van Utrecht favoured warm, earthen tones, Burless has chosen a cooler palette, the bluish tones evocative of silence and introspection. In contrast to the superb modelling of the forms slumped and suspended over it, her table is elegantly denoted by a simple, twig-like line that transects the picture plane. Burless delights in disrupted narratives. To this end, many of her new works have moments of intense focus disturbed by passages of spontaneous expressionism. Commenting on her now iconic magenta-coloured cows Burless says, "Well, the pink cows... they started as a commentary on our seachange in moving to the [Northern NSW] farm 12 years ago. We were so taken with the seemingly idyllic lifestyle, it was as if looking through rose-coloured glasses."

Christian Morrow

Enigmatically titled Against the Sky, Christian Morrow's new body of work extends his fascination with the mystery of flight. Employing iconography inspired by the diagrams in childhood books about aeroplanes, his philosophical musings are articulated in matrixes of linear refinement. Juxtaposed against luminous expanses, scarred flying machines from a bygone era loom cage-like and vacant. Their shapes, part distinct, part dissolving, signify a gradual fading from "the collective, cultural memory." Morrow explains that the title for this group of paintings refers not only to the visuals of WWII aeroplanes positioned against sky backdrops, but to the lethal role these machines played against rational, enlightened thought which is symbolised by sky. Other images where planes are morphing into hotrods reflect a more lighthearted perspective. "They are hilarious and pointless and directly connect with my youth and the early American hotrod comics I devoured," says Morrow. "However," he cautions, "the hotrods are also a representation of danger and express our obsession with speed, power and gasoline." There is a definite physicality to Morrow's art that is integral to the making and viewing of it. Texture and nuance abound in the energetic calligraphic markings and annotations that range across surfaces that have been "branded, burned and gouged." 

Jack Pemble

Brett Whiteley once commented that he admired the way Francis Bacon "made the grotesque glorious." Young, Brisbane-based Jack Pemble unabashedly draws inspiration from both these artists in his attempt to create art "sharpened to a dangerous edge of extremism." Manifesting the enfant terrible tradition he expresses himself in a frenzy of ink and charcoal linear gestures; half measures are an anathema to Pemble. There is no predetermined intent - his line is process, traversing space and spawning imagery. The relationship between abstract and figurative elements is tenuous due to the rapidity of his linear application. Pemble's works are deliberately untitled so as to discourage a prescriptive reading. Instead they present as potent ambiguities that may best be understood as impulsive excursions into unknowable terrains.

Jodie Wells

The tactile properties of objects are our earliest sensory experience and this primal fascination with textural vividness endures. Visual sensation is alive to the energy of Jodie Wells' distinctive, thick buttery textures. We are seduced with surfaces that sparkle as light bounces from the troughs and crests of her palette knife's passage. Great skill is required in the direct, palette knife technique. The scraping gesture takes on critical importance when image outcome is instinctively determined as the paint is laid on. "I aim for works that appear spontaneous in their composition," says Wells, "as if they are capturing a fleeting event and the subjects about to depart the canvas." Wells' mastery is evident in the utter confidence of execution and her understanding of its power to articulate symbol, form and mood. The Landing Barn Owl work admirably exemplifies this. Here a pale owl tears at the surrounding blackness with long, razor-sharp talons. Night and creature are one in the thick, oily turbulence of the hunt. It is a thoroughly compelling picture.


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