Posts Tagged ‘Australian Galleries


Day 301: Recent Still Lives by William Robinson


Day 301: Recent Still Lives by William Robinson

William Robinson’s recent exhibitions at the Australian Galleries in Melbourne and Sydney featured a refreshing infusion of still lives, heralding the artist’s return to the subject matter which arguably lay in abeyance for the last few decades. Still lives were central to the artist’s oeuvre throughout the 1970s, and apart from displaying Robinson’s joy of domesticity, they also payed homage to one of his idols, the French late-nineteenth-century Post-Impressionist artist, Pierre Bonnard.

Robinson’s recent still lives, such as Garden and Verandah with Poppies, 2011 [1] and Verandah Still Life with Tibouchina and Vireya, 2011 [2] resurrect the erstwhile intimacy of his early domestic interiors; while the flattening out of the illusory space, the placement of objects at precarious, tottering angles, and bringing the background to the forefront of the composition are reflective of Robinson’s ongoing fascination with the French Post-Impressionist masters.

At the same time, the recent still lives are informed with Robinson’s own inimitably bold manipulation of space as witnessed in his grandiloquent landscapes; as well as the richness of riotous colours, as undiluted blobs of yellows, reds, magentas, turquoises, bright purples and blues (that were only hinted at within his landscape paintings) dance across the palette and enrich the visual experience of these intimately-scales canvasses. 

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2012; where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Lewis Miller @ Australian Galleries


Lewis Miller Nude

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Lewis Miller @ Australian Galleries

Lewis Miller is undoubtedly among this country’s most outstanding portrait painters. His gifts in this genre are self-evident, and one hardly needs to list his Archibald and Moran accolades to appreciate his talents in this difficult metier. Therefore, I rushed over to see his current exhibition at the Australian Galleries, and like many of his previous shows, it features a cross-section of genres, in which Lewis excels – portraiture, nudes, and still lives.

Lewis’s favourite model is – has been, and by the looks of it will be in the foreseeable future – Hazel. They must have established a symbiotic relationship, for she has been appearing in his paintings for at least a decade. He must have painted her by now in every conceivable position and from every conceivable angle; he is probably so familiar with every curve of her body, every crevice and every cranny, that perhaps the actual act of modelling is no longer necessary, as he is probably able to recreate her form purely from his memory.

Lewis Miller Still LifeBut one cannot blame Lewis’s attachment to Hazel: she is generously endowed with a model’s body, with perfect curves of her hips, sinuous lines of her limbs, generous mounds of her breasts. Not having had the privilege to see the model in such intimate state of deshabille, it is also highly possible that by the time she makes it onto Miller’s finished canvas, her features have been regularised and idealised by the artist. She is superbly executed in every picture. Her limbs and torso are masterfully foreshortened in the ‘upside-down’ paintings; and delineated in assured and confident charcoal outlines that flow and undulate around the landscape of her body. Her skin tones are accented with broad brush strokes of skin-coloured pigments, from deep ochres to most delicately effervescent pinks. Large expanses of linen, left exposed by the artist, superbly recreate the textures of her skin as well as of the sheets on which she poses.

Lewis Miller Fish Sea SnailLewis’s still lives could not be faulted either. Lemons, peaches, quinces, pomegranates, and apricots; pilchard, oysters, molluscs and all kinds of fruits de mer, chops and steaks and other cuts of meat are arranged in groups, combinations or by themselves, on canvasses and copper plates of various shapes and sizes, many a painting reminiscent of a Grecian thin and elongated decorative frieze. Lewis’s nature mortes still show a significant influence of Lucian Freud, of whom he is perhaps the most devoted disciple in this country. Freud’s style is perceptible in the thickly layered paint and richly textured surfaces, which, until a decade or so ago Miller also applied to the depiction of his models, though since then he developed his own pared down and raw style which shows off most advantageously his drawing skills and technical abilities.

Lewis Miller Self PortraitThere’s also a smattering of portraits by the entrance – an obligatory self-portrait or two, a couple of studies of Tom Alberts, and a portrait of a child, all predominantly painted en face, their gaze communicating directly with the viewer. Looking at these portraits, I was struck by the realisation that for at least a decade or so Miller retained the same format for every exhibition. It is always a smattering of nude, still life, and portrait studies. His portraits are frequently worked into larger finished compositions, which wow audiences when shown in Australia’s premier portraiture prizes. However, his nudes and still lives have never breeched that prime essence of being a study. One does begin to wonder whether the works of these genres – like his portraits – would ever lead to a crescendo, a seminal work, or a large scale masterpiece. His superb facility with the brush, colour, drawing, composition, foreshortening notwithstanding, it would be a pity for an artist of such obvious talents to spend the rest of his career on studies, sketches, and preparatory drawings.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but full or partial use is welcome with proper acknowledgement. Where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Group Exhibition @ Australian Galleries

Jeffrey Smart - Large HoardingWednesday, 4 August 2010

Dear Diary,

[Group Exhibitions – July/August 2010 – cont. from previous entry]

One has to leave it to the Australian Galleries to mount a truly kick-arse group display at its Derby Street premises. The three spaces just off the main exhibition gallery were filled with the works by Jeffrey Smart, Tim Storrier, and William Robinson.

Most of the dozen or so works by Jeffrey Smart on display are all of recent vintage, painted from 2006-2007 onwards. In spite of his advancing years, the Italy-based artist does show any signs of slowing down. His paintings still retain their measured and studied quality; the execution is not rushed; colours are fresh and harmonious. Urban architecture and landscape still provide the artist with an endless source of inspiration, and he continues mining this rich visual repository in such works as The Large Hoarding and Via Pierro della Francesca [$550,000 ea], or in the cheeky glimpses of male and female nudes in his smaller Study for ‘The Caravan Park’ [$235,000]. The exhibition display also affords the viewer a glimpse of his earlier works, such as a 1950s acrylic on paper Two-Up [$65,000] and a sharp study of a male nude from 1965 [$14,500].

Tim Storrier - CinemaThe adjacent display room features five or six recent paintings by Tim Storrier [all measuring around 200×100 cm, $145,000 ea]. I have always maintained that Storrier is one of the most accomplished contemporary figurative painters, and the works on display attest to my high opinion of him. They all feature disembodied, floating garments against the background of clouds and skies; colours are rich and vibrant but always in harmony with each other; technical execution is smooth and (from what I can judge) faultless; every painterly passage is resolved and properly thought out. My attention was especially caught by Cinema, which was likewise a painting of a disembodied raincoat, reminiscent of a still from a period film noir. Although there is no human figure involved, Storrier succeeded in relating the energy and experience of rushing through the pouring rain by the careful study of the garment’s folds. The painting is a near-monochromatic exercise in watery greys, accentuating the glowing effects of a burning cigarette and blinking headlights in the distance.

The next room displays a veritable cornucopia of vertiginous landscapes by William Robinson, whose successful one-man-show closed at these premises in June. His erstwhile admiration of Vuillard and Bonnard are still evident in the flattening out of his picture planes, “seeing the world reflected in a pool of water,” and pulling forth the backgrounds of his compositions.

William Robinson - Sunlight Hillside Carnarvon

The artist continues exploring Queensland’s rainforests; the paintings are carried out in rich, succulent colours which are at times brightened to depict the dazzling effects of sunlight, or subdued to indicate mist and shade. The painted surfaces shimmer with textured and vigorous brushwork. I took a special delight in examining these canvasses up close, where a luscious passage of emerald dissipated in a myriad of brushstrokes of greens, deep blues and purples.  [Price range: $175,000-$495,000].

PS: The Robinson display also featured a number of the artist’s ink drawings in paper, many depicting beach scenes, in his quick and quirky observational style [price range: $18,500 ea].

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

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

April 2019
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