3–28 JUNE 2009
I paint with the vision of bringing romanticism and idealism back into contemporary painting discourse. Through the show Depression, I hope that the viewer can reflect on their own consciousness of human nature. By viewing these paintings as images of minimal but considered content, a profound awareness and an innate sense of longing becomes apparent. Using iconic forms and light, as well as muted colour to accentuate the intensity of this vision, the intimate scale of these paintings draw the viewer in and allow them to contemplate the gaze of the subject. In Sister of Mercy my intention has been to absorb the essence of Walker Evan’s iconic portrait of Allie Mae Burroughs and to project a new narrative –inspired in part from a Leonard Cohen song.
The expression in the eyes of the woman takes one to a space of desperation and decay and it is in this landscape that three horses survive. In the ‘horse paintings’ traces of human- kind are suggested but then these images could just be a shadow of something else, the details become puzzling to the viewer. A reflection on the environment and its decay leads to Lilli and Rudolph -images of two ultimate idealists who preached nature, natural living and sustainability in the environment, however in their time and even now their philosophy of life is seen as a cult. Themes of human impact and our relationship to the natural environment can be traced through these paintings where a new link is formed- one that sees a new use of human consciousness and will. This can also be seen in the painting of Violette -a French resistance fighter in WW11, whose husband was killed fighting in the desert. She joined the Resistance and was captured near the end of the war where she was held in a concentration camp; constantly tortured and raped and then shot at the end of the war.
The painting Babylon presents a lost mythical world far beyond the existence of our present world. Babylon is a place of Romanticism and Idealism like those depicted in the paintings of Albert Bierstadt and Frederick Church, whose 19th century vision was to present a view of the ‘new world’. Aptly, Babylon inhabits the same viewing space as Violette. The connection is important because the story of Violette- a fighter for human freedom parallels the idealistic landscape of environmental freedom. The story of Violette although horrific holds elements of a similar romanticism and power as the story of Babylon. Both stories are captivating in their strength and resolve.
In Frida, the viewer sees again an image of an iconic figure and again the expression of the gaze is significant. Significant because like all the ‘portraits’ of this show the gaze suggests in part what my enquiry is –to investigate the intricacies of human nature at its most vulnerable.
– Simon Kennedy