Saturday, August 29, 2009

John Peart

Shadowgrille - 2009
120x194cm
oil and acrylic on canvas
Image: Watters Gallery, Sydney

Just the other day I had the opportunity to meet with Sydney abstract painter, John Peart, at Watters Gallery where we had a rambling conversation about his latest show Mainly Painting. Comprised mainly of large canvases made from smaller panels, the work is full of intrigue; amorphous forms, spidery lines and surfaces ranging from roughly textured to lightly stained. These are the kind of abstract paintings that keep me looking, guessing and wondering.

Talking to Peart was a refreshing experience given that it was quickly obvious that he was open to my interpretations. Indeed, when I asked him if he liked talking about his work he reflected 'not so much talking about it but I do like being prompted by questions from others, it makes me think about possibilities'. This flexibility; being open to questions and possibilities, is key and it's clearly evident in the way he treats each panel separately and then unifies or assembles them later, into larger canvases. Doing so welcomes a sense of surprise and play that provides a freedom from being entirely preoccupied with picture making as an end product. It's more about engaging with the paint and its myraid possibilities. On a smaller scale the collages in the show echo this process and, to my mind, represent a playfully direct way of juxtaposing bright amorphous forms with web like grounds.

Space is a major element in Peart's work. In a painting such as 'Pour Favour' (please?) there is a distinct feeling that one can fall into or through spaces or holes, as if there is another world behind the prevailing layers.

In 'Shadowgrille' (featured here) space is suggested by playful lines: some scrathy, as an overlay, some flat and inky and some fuzzy/blurry on top. It's as if a paint soaked grub took a wander along the surface leaving a trail like the marks one might find on a scribbly gum. I'm naturally drawn to the tensions set up by multiple edges in this painting, an effect resulting from the joining of the four separate panels post-painting. To add further to its complexity, Peart concocts a subtle shift in the character of the line so that it changes from deep dark to grey blurred. The overall effect is intensely dynamic; the viewer is not passively gazing but rather actively moving in and out of the picture space.

Echoing Shadowgrille is a wall sculpture. Made from eucalyptus branches, 'E camaldulensis' first comes across as a random scattering of bush debris on a forest floor but further investigation reveals a series of driving lines that splinter off from the base, weaving in and out to make a support of wooden webs or grids. It's a form that is beautifully resolved and as it hovers airily on the wall the branches cast shadows affecting a second dimension on to the blank space behind so that the entire piece takes on a kind of physical reflection of the concerns embodied by the paintings surrounding it.

The idea of endless choices in painting is such a delicious one. And, dare I say it - pursuing substance over style - is what a painting by John Peart is all about. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next! So if you're in town, I highly recommend that you go and see this show. Also, you can read a really great interview from 2007 with John Peart here.


6 comments:

Gabrielle Jones said...

Great review - well written and perceptive.

TAB said...

I agree, well written review. Always a fan of John Peart. I want to start doing something similar re reviews of abstraction. Tell me are blogs exempt from copyright for images? If you know

TAB said...

Hi me again. I have been reading copyright on a uni web site. It seems if a website has no copyright symbol on the images you can use them. Yes?

Undercover Painter said...

Hmmmm very good question. When I started this blog I emailed the writer of another blog I admired. His advice was to be reasonable with the use of images from galleries etc. To my mind, this means if you credit the artist, the gallery or artists site you copied it from and provide links too, then there is no real issue. I've put a little message on my profile inviting artists to email me if they would like their image removed. Essentially, writing about other artists is a form of promotion and offers a positive forum for their art. Unless you are going to write something negative (as opposed to constructively critical) then I really don't think there is a problem. The internet is a gray area - I know the US has a growing body of legislation (which has sprung out of test cases - I understand - but I'm not too sure about Australia. The other thing you might want to do, as I have begun to do myself, is to write to the artist themselves and ask permission. I hope this helps, TAB. Maybe someone else will add something here. Thanks for returning to my blog and glad you liked my Peart review.

Undercover Painter said...

p.s looking forward to visiting your blog when it's up and running. Let me know, won't you?

Michael Rutherford said...

I really like this guy's work. Went to the gallery site and saw Greygrid, which really caught my eye. Nice job on the article.

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