Exhibitions    Bett Gallery 12

09.11.12 to 01.12.12


Periodically changing subjects and exploring new mediums has been an important part of my working process over the years. I try to approach my work with a ‘beginner’s mind’ as much as possible, without the safety net of familiar subjects and ways of working.

Avoiding a formulaic style keeps me on my toes and hopefully imbues the work with an energy and unpredictability. Courting failure and doubt are essential to an artists’ practice and avoiding a ‘signature style’, despite its encouragement in the art market, has always been important to me. Some years ago, as a kind of affirmation, I wrote a quote from Oscar Wilde on my studio wall; “continuity is the last refuge of the unimaginative”.

I began the large studies on paper of Chinese faces in Penang, where I undertook a 7-week artist’s residency in central Georgetown earlier this year.

I was fascinated with the rich history of the Chinese culture in Penang, the temples and clan houses and the weathered old photographs of ancestors lining their walls. These resonated with me as a window into the past and I began a number of pastel, ink and watercolour studies from snap shots I took of these faces. Often these photos were poorly lit, smudged with insect droppings, out of focus and partly obscured by the changing reflections on the glass covering them - these elements all became a part of the work.

For the past few years I've been drawn to the ‘frozen moment’ of photography as the basis for my paintings. Incorporating stills from early Japanese and European films, photos my father took in Canada in the 1930s and my own photos.

In order to remove the work from the category of ‘photo-realist’ I've played with the paint surfaces and experimented with mediums to give them a looseness and accidental quality while retaining the photo reference.

The pared back, dream-like running or falling figures and large samurai heads with barely legible writing and scoured and dripping paint surfaces read as stills in a narrative and leave the viewer with the feeling that something is about to happen or has just happened.

The title of this exhibition - 'Kaoy Tao Th'ng' - is the name of a hawker stall and tasty Chinese soup found near the studio in Penang. The dish is a mixture of unusual ingredients, fish balls, pork, chicken, noodles etc. not unlike the variety of mediums and subjects in this exhibition.

Thornton Walker, October 2012