Clive Murray-White @ Cowwarr Art Space

Cowwarr Art Space, GippslandFriday, 11 February 2010

Dear Diary,

This weekend I have found a refuge in Cowwarr, home to the sculptor Clive Murray-White, and his partner, the gallery director and art entrepreneur Carolyn Crossley. The imposing 1920s butter factory was cleverly converted into a dwelling, a gallery, and a set of self-contained artists’ studios. Murray-White’s own studio – a small industrial shed – is located just across the courtyard from the gallery, which provides a perfect showroom for his many pieces.

Clive Murray-White - Senator - Installation ViewI have been familiar with Murray-White’s work for a number of years. He is one of the very few practitioners of figurative sculpture in Australia working in marble. Peter Schippernheyn is another. Vince Vozzo, though in a much more stylised, decorative vein, is the third.

The current body of work was formulated in the 1990s, when Murray-White set himself an ambitious and grandiose project to create nothing short of a new iconography for the Gods of the Southern Cross. He invented their names and their characters, gave them stories, and with his chisel materialised them exclusively from Australian marble.

Clive loves working with the stone. He respects the originality and the ancienty of the prehistoric monolith, its unique nature and character.  He skilfully incorporates its cracks, inclusions, and colour variations in his works. Each sculpture displays his ability to manipulate the marble’s surface – from highly polished and shiny to smooth and opaque; from roughly hewn to untouched, preserving the original design of nature.

Clive Murray-White - Recent SculptureIn his early sculptures, the faces of his gods emerged only partially. Their appearance was imbued with the mystery of excavated pieces of ancient Greek or Roman sculptures. Sometime only a cheek-bone, an eye socket, a forehead were distinguishable in his pieces; fragments of faces featured broken-off noses and disfigured chins. Over the years – and especially since the Felton Commission of 2004 – his faces have emerged more fully from the stone. From mere hints of a human visage, they are now fully recognisable faces. From highly abstracted likenesses, Murray-White’s sculptures are becoming more and more highly detailed and well-characterised portraits of people around him.

The artist must progress in his work. If he does not, his work stagnates. Throughout his career, Clive tried his hand in a variety of media, including wood, metal, and even smoke formations. The ‘romancing’ of the stone is yet another incarnation of his ever-searching artistic spirit. The progress from fragmented abstraction to a greater definition of physiognomic features in his sculpture is a part of the artist’s journey. One wonders if with the attainment of a greater naturalness in his sculpture came at the expense of the erstwhile sense of mystery. … (to be continued)

[© Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg 2010. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

February 2010


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