Sunday, August 30, 2009

Idris Murphy, “I and Thou”, plus Southerly Buster

Hazelhurst Regional Gallery (Sutherland Shire Council, Gymea)

The opening of the survey show for this landscape artist last Friday night attracted the glitterati – well, the older patrons/friends and volunteers of the Gallery, Damien Minton (Gallery Owner), Randi Linnegar (King St Gallery Director and Idris’ dealer); Celia Gullett (artist, Tim Olsen Gallery and personal friend), Terry O’Donnell (also ex teacher COFA and East Sydney Tech), Annette Tzavaras (Art theorist, Fundraiser extraordinaire and seemingly everywhere I go) and Alison, another friend, who, I discovered, owns 23 of Idris’ paintings due to the fact that he is the godfather of her children! Ah Hem… well, we thought we were special, anyway (especially after a few wines and Idris signed our catalogues).

But the point is, this artist is well respected by many artists in the Sydney community, and recognition, though late in life, is coming thick and fast and, to my mind, not a moment too soon. He is a wonderful colourist, who combines colours even other colourists would never think of using, but somehow it works.
But here’s a warning -for non-artists, his work takes a bit of getting used to. His paintings are naive in execution –or “cacky handed” as I think John McDonald said – and he draws trees in a manner of a third grade school kid. However, on longer viewing, these seemingly simple paintings reveal a nuanced touch; a hardly decipherable composition where perspectives shift and the landscape is flattened; a skilled observation diluted to its simplest and most direct execution, and, importantly, evoke a sense of place and time of day. Stand in the gallery and cast your eye quickly over the whole show and I defy you not to be uplifted by the riot of colour and to discern an artists’ personal language somewhere between an indigenous rendering and European perception of a rather alien land.
An added bonus to the show is a rather excellent and even formidable exhibition of work from artists of note (mostly young) with connections to the “Shire” called “Southerly Buster”. Silke Raetz work is my favourite and a recent discovery for me, but all are excellent.

If you aren’t familiar with Idris’ work, then I encourage you to visit this show and be thoroughly out of your comfort zone. If you are familiar with it, enjoy the ride. Both exhibitions on till 4th October

Silke Raetze, Tender Trap (afetr Cupid) 2009, Oil on canvas with stitched canvas pieces, Courtesy the artist and Michael Reid Gallery
Images: Idris Murphy, Weipa Harbour, Storm Clouds 2005, Acrylic and collage on board, 120 x 120cm

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