Portraits5th Aug - 29th Aug 2015 | Stanley Street Gallery


5th Aug – 29th Aug 2015

Portraits is a group exhibition exploring a variety of approaches to the subject of portraiture using a variety of mediums, including painting, photography and sculpture. The exhibiting artists are Denis Clarke, John Donegan, Amy Dynan, Robin Lawrence, Guy Morgan, Shaelene Murray, Harley Oliver, Zorica Purlija, Brad Spalding and Derryn Tal.

The Artists

Painter Guy Morgan, a finalist in this year's Archibald Prize; Derryn Tal who has been exhibited twice in the Portia Geach and has been selected in this year's Salon des Refuśes; Harley Oliver with his witty and wry paintings; the highly acclaimed photographer John Donegan; the emotionaly charged and beautiful portraits by Robin Lawrence; the brilliant and technically awe inspiring sculptural work of award winning artist Shaelene Murray; the edgy contempory interpretation of  photographic portraiture by Zorica Purlija; Denis Clarke and his consummate works on paper, the unique style and character of Brad Spalding and finally, talented artist Amy Dynan who throws portraiture on its head.


Artist Statements 

Guy Morgan - No 1, 17

‘My retinal detachment occurred more than 3 years ago and this is how I look through my damaged eye,’ says Guy Morgan.

‘I started creating this work with a series of simple charcoal drawings. I would observe only with the affected eye and then make marks solely using my good one. That way I could accurately gauge what was happening. However, a psychological barrier stopped me from drawing the full extent of the difference between what I viewed with my left and right eye. My mind would “pretty things up”, rendering me unable to accurately represent the world I observed through deficient vision.

‘Over the last 10 years, my art practice has become a mix of the intentional and the accidental. The background in this self-portrait is painted with an eyedropper, as is most of my work. The speckled surface is reminiscent of the sight loss I faced as my vision deteriorated over a few short hours in 2011. I first experienced a descending grey shadow, then sparks, colour specks and yellow flashes as my retina began detaching”.

Guy’s portraiture has appeared in numerous art awards and group exhibitions. He is a finalist in this year’s 2015 Archibald and also was a finalist in 2013, and a three times semi-finalist in the 2013 and 2014 Moran Portrait Prize.

Amy Dynan - No 2, 3 and Red Room

I draw portraits to connect. For me, the portrait is an experience of connection, an opportunity to bear witness to the essence of another.

To depart from realism, which has been my previous experience of portraiture, has seen me question what it means to see and really be seen. What is the meaning of the portrait without the ability to identify another through an image of likeness? Can expressiveness, recognition and connection in abstract portraits still be achieved? I believe that it can be, through the embodiment of medium.

As an artist I make choices in my image making. However, to use a medium such as ink is to learn the art of relinquishing control. I have tried to tame it, but it does not lend itself kindly to the controlled will, for it has a mind of its own. How liberating to surrender to watery ink that bleeds, drips and disobeys it’s master’s hand. To embrace ink and its unpredictable, unforgiving nature is an exercise in letting go and surrendering to medium. To abstract the portrait is similarly an exercise in letting go. It is a stripping away of the external to reveal the poetry of the internal. This experience of connection with the intrinsic nature or essence of the being is what I seek through portraiture.

Harley Oliver – No 4, 5

Moxley – 1923 - Life must have got impossibly complex for William Moxley. A Sydney based break-in specialist by trade and police informant by inclination, he was trying to work on both sides of the law. He survived being shot by fellow criminals but was hanged for murder in 1932.

Mrs Osbourne 1919 – Caught for an unrecorded crime, did Mrs Osbourne change her ways or was she smart enough to never get caught.

Derryn Tal – No 6

Claudia Chan Shaw has been one of my dearest friends since we met at Sydney College of the Arts in 1980. Claudia’s many hats include fashion designer, author, TV & radio presenter, & most recently she has been elected as curator for the 2016 Chinese New Year Festival.

The sitting for ‘Robot Girl’ took place in Claudia’s home. Her eclectic home is bursting with tin robots, revealing her obsession for collecting. A robotic bird & dog from her collection represent Claudia’s pets, Spartacus & Lennie.

‘Robot Girl’ was selected as a finalist for the Portia Geach Portrait Prize 2012

Zorica Purlija – No 7, 8, 9 & 10

These images were taken at the Frieze Art Fair in New York in May 2014. I discovered a funny coincidence as I was walking around of people matching artworks they were observing. I loved the chance nature of this encounter, the serendipity that runs throughout all my portrait work, reflecting my admiration of street photography.

Quote from Austrian Poet Hugo Von Hoffmansthall 1898:

“Language has grown in your mouth, and in the same way a chain has grown into your hand: pull the universe towards you! Pull! Or else you will be dragged.”

John Donegan – No 11

I’ve chosen this portrait to show portraiture can be as much about the human experience as it is about the individual.

While a posed portrait becomes a conversation between the sitter and the audience with the photographer as interpreter, street portraiture brings the audience into the experience of an individual or community.

Shaelene Murray – No 12, 13 (sculpture)

At its inception, the Heirloom series was founded on the humorous collision of evolutionary theory and fashion. At its ending, these two pieces 'Blossom' (2013) and 'Feather' (2014), in their own evolutionary process, stand as witness to the potential of the girl child.

Made from stainless steel, the works' delicacy and beauty belies their strength. The unwary audience is tempted to acknowledge only the surface or skin of these two girls. Their beauty and their conformity is as metaphorical as steel-these traits socially compel, restrain and support the ideal of 'beautiful' skin.

An evolutionary viewer might choose to look deeper and perceive the multiple layers, the beauty of potential, of intelligence, creativity and strength.

Robin Lawrence – No 14

I have always been particularly drawn to portrait painting. It involves many aspects of picture making such as composition, drawing, colour and tonal relationships, all relating to how the artist will portray his or her subject.

My favourite example of the problem is how Picasso had more than ninety sittings from Gertrude Stein when painting her portrait in 1906. After the final sitting he wiped the canvas clean and then painted his masterpiece from what he had “In mind.” This is the ultimate in self-questioning that the artist will inevitably have to consider in order to reach what he or she considers the right expression.

Denis Clarke – No 15, 16

These head studies are examples of a main strand in my working process, which developed in London during the eighties and nineties. My painting during this period had affinities with new expressionist figurative trends in Europe, particularly Berlin but I was also interested in the work and philosophy of the School of London painters. Their methods honoured the inspiration of the figurative tradition in western art along with a rigorous discipline of drawing from the everyday, not dissimilar to the process of constant physical inquiry practiced by Giacometti. Their drawings, for example those of Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff resemble a battleground of marks attempting to salvage a renewed sense of form and structure through a process of re evaluation through perceptions.

In my own way I have attempted to re assess the possibilities of representation. To find previously unforeseen solutions using traditional drawing media, inks ink washes, charcoal and pastel.

For these drawings I have used my own image, not through a wish for introspection or self-analysis but at the time its instant availability. I also at this time hired models when I could afford to.

Doing these drawings involves a conscious decision to get lost in a process of scanning and looking at the reflection of my head before me. I look for structures that seem to underpin a lot of detail only to find that I then rub all of that ‘vane’ attempt away. However, that is part of making the drawing. There are periods of hopelessness and despair, risk and experimentation and moments of clarity when an image seems to appear. The end result may not be the type of structure I first intended. To varying degrees the works might digress from objective process into a more expressive and subjective portrait.

Likeness for me is a question first about “how does that ‘thing ‘appear?’ Therefore it’s more about feeling and sensing what is before me than graphic or photographic likeness.

Brad Spalding – No 18

“Peter Tucker” is a passionate defender of the people and environment of the Kimberley region in the north west of Australia. Tucker has been living in the Kimberley region for over 20 years. He spent seven years, between 1986 and 1992 living with the Bardi People of the distant tip of Dampier Peninsula and on the Buccaneer Archipelago.

Since 1995, Peter has been working with the Wooroora people. The country runs from the top of the King Sound to the Prince Regent River. It’s on their ancestral lands that he conducts Wandjina tours with Donny Woolagoodja, a respected elder and well known artist from Worrorra country.

“This painting used the technique of wet on wet; this is very tricky as the soaking time of the paper is critical to the absorbtion rate, if paper is too wet then the pigment intensity is lost when the work dries, when dry the picture will still look wet with a bright translucent quality. The freedom and speed of watercolour makes this medium clean and portable. I use gin as my medium, this works beautifully as a carrying agent and speeds up the drying time and also gives the painting a delicious aroma”.

 Floor Sheet - Portraits