Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to EyeContact. You are invited to respond to reviews and contribute to discussion by registering to participate.

JH

Towards a more fluid image.

AA
View Discussion
This is the primary image

You could regard Swallow's sculpture and watercolours as quite separate: totally independent enterprises but with a little overlap in subject matter.


Ricky Swallow

Watercolours


12 December 2009 - 21 February 2010

Australian artist Ricky Swallow is well known for his finely detailed sculpture (made by carving or casting) of everyday or hybridic objects. The forms are astonishingly precise in the exactness of their execution, with much nuance of planular surface and delicate plasticity - along with avoidance of strong chroma. Therefore to see this show of over eighty loosely executed watercolours is a considerable surprise - for they celebrate saturated colour and wrist action as part of drawing with brushed on pigment. They demonstrate a less cerebral and clinical sensibility, being more overtly emotional in mood.


As a body of work they need to be understood as a response to the tightness of the sculpture, a bodily and mental freeing on the part of the artist, a wish to embrace more of the chaotic and unforeseen. Despite Swallow’s interest in science fiction and current technologies that extend or reproduce the body, he is in a sense a mediaeval artist in his themes and visual treatments. A little like say Roger Mortimer with his guild/craft sensibility (or even Parekowhai), and quite unlike say Dan Arps, et al, Peter Robinson and Paul Cullen who seem to be more about exploring trope (as in the hows of meaning construction) not symbol, process not resolved product.

The exhibition shows Swallow beginning to teach himself the skills of watercolour manipulation twelve or so years ago, and slowly but surely becoming more and more proficient in portraiture, copying images that are often corny in their selection - LP sleeves (James Taylor), art reproductions (Goya, Picasso), photos of folk heroes (Ned Kelly), and movie stills (Jagger as Kelly) - until he becomes like Marlene Dumas, an expert at interpreting the physiognomies of the vulnerable, the savage and the tragic; but with traces of Sydney Nolan. Improving the clichéd source material through transmutation.

You could regard Swallow’s sculpture and watercolours as quite separate: totally independent enterprises but with a little overlap in subject matter - as with skulls - or you could speculate about them on another level. Projects that are linked.

Swallow seems to be searching for his own voice, an individuality readily apparent in his sculpture but in my view not detectable here, a quality through which his 3D practice might eventually become more turbulent and immediate. These drawings are interesting on a non-portraiture level, as an attempt to reach beyond themselves, rather than just as illustrations or explorations of technique.

I think (actually I hope) that they might lead to a looser form of sculpture than what he has made so far. They seem to be tools for thinking about plasticity of form and emotional power. In other words, researching sculpture with psychological and physical atmosphere, objects that are partially dematerialised and far less literal. Devices for researching the presence (or lack of) mass, a shift away from obvious narrative. A self-teaching aid for investigating that.

John Hurrell

Print | Facebook | Twitter | Email

 

Recent Posts by John Hurrell

JH
Michael Shepherd's 'Suppose The Future Fails' as installed upstairs at Two Rooms. Photo: Sam Hartnett.

Apocalyptic Maelstrom

TWO ROOMS

Auckland

 

Michael Shepherd
Suppose the Future Fails

 

30 November - 22 December 2018

JH

Classically Composed Improv

Rattle Records

Auckland

 

Eve de Castro-Robinson, with various musicians

The Gristle of Knuckles 2018

JH
Sam Hartnett's Ex Libris as installed at Objectspace. Photo: Sam Hartnett.

Three Libraries Remembered

OBJECTSPACE

Auckland

 

Sam Hartnett
Ex Libris

 

24 November 2018 - 24 February 2019

JH
Gavin Hipkins' Block Units exhibition as installed at Starkwhite. Photo: Sam Hartnett.

Hipkins’ Painted Block Images

STARKWHITE

Auckland

 

Gavin Hipkins
Block Units

 

14 November - 8 December 2018