Went to visit the almost renovated, and thankfully quieter Watters Gallery to see this show by this well respected and prolific former teacher of mine. There were a number of unexpected treasures here, the most obvious being “E camaldulensis”, a wall sculpture made by this painter from the twigs/branches of the same name, intertwined in a grid formation that presents the basis of John’s investigations over the last couple of shows. The structure throws pleasant shadows on the wall and intrigues the eye with the play between real and ephemeral; and rough tactility of the materials opposing the geometric, linear nature of the final structure.
Frankly, besides loving the work, I was jealous because I had thought of doing a sculpture in found branches for my upcoming show, "Trees for my Father", and now it will look like I copied him. Damn!
As for the rest of the show, there is a surprising variety coming from works more closely related to this sculpture in their rawness (such as “Lattice”, “ShadowGrille” and the collages) combined with more finished, but still related works - all line, grid and experimental process – such as Ground Formations, the “Panel” paintings and Harvey’s shields. Through it all, it’s obvious that John is playing with chance -the multiple possibilities of his arrangements of squares in the “Grid” pictures; the varied drip, brush, line and colour work apparently laid at random; and the layering process, which leaves some elements to show through whilst others are coloured, attest to this.
Here is the work of an artist in control of his medium and process, and the painting, “Gradeground 1” is a ripper! (Geoffrey Legge, the co-Director of Watters quietly told me this one painting would knock Pollock’s “Blue Poles” out of the gallery if placed beside it). For my money, “Ground Formations” was close on its heels.
However, as I often find with John’s shows, a little more editing would work wonders in my opinion. Some paintings tend towards the muddy (“Grey Grid”) or uncomfortable/ugly colour combinations (“Tetrad 5”) and one of the Panel Paintings (I think it was 5) just didn’t work – it looked simply messy to me, and my eye kept going to one area that had red in it and being left stranded there. The collages are all pretty good and excellent value for an artist of this standing.
John Peart, Watters Gallery 11th Aug to 5th September
Image: John Peart, “E Camaldulensis”, 2009 Red gum wood, 122 x 244 x 15cm