daniel dewar & grégory gicquel

Melbourne, June 2006. The story of an exhibition.


What about style?

From Jon Campbell's catalogue

In Phaidon's Vitamin P, Barry Schwabsky writes about the state of painting today and concludes that the practice has switched in the past years from 'WHY to paint' to 'HOW to paint'. It's more about style and less about the act of painting. It's a lot about 'how to paint' here in Australia. A lot of very good practitioners and a lot of styles. Well, I prefer more self-reflexive practices. Why art? why painting? why being here? what's the context? and how it interferes into our reading of the work?
Daniel says style 'is ok'. Which I find very puzzling. It's true that style and ornament is a important component of his and Greg's sculpture. So why do I like their work so much? Let's go back to another notion: 'life-style'. Its meaning has been quite emptied these last years, and the focus has turned a lot around life-styles being hijacked by brands. But Dan and Greg stay on a different ground. 'It's ok' to have a life-style, if it is lived 100%. It's ok to play Nirvana's songs in an amateur rock band, it's ok to go surfing or skating with branded boards, it's ok to spend the day in a DIY store to look for the perfect gadget that you need for gardening. Their work is about finding some visual equivalents of these life-style experiences. So it's not about branded signs and iconic features, but about feelings - improvisation, risk, endurance, balance, tension - rendered in a formal way.

Two artists I've met two artists in the last days who share the same kind of focus. Alicia Frankovich, a young artist who is currently in residence at Gertrude Contemporary Space, started life doing acrobatics at a high level. Her paintings, sculptures and installations are reflecting this past experience in a metaphorical way. Words are floating on canvases, faded pastel colours evoke the gymnasium atmosphere, wooden unstable structures remind one of twisted jumps, trajectories made on a trampoline.

On the other side, Jon Campbell has been producing works for almost twenty years. His painting, his music, and his performances feed each other in a circular way. Here life-style regains all its power. The pleasure of making music and singing songs finds its perfect match in the simple, glossy and languorous word paintings. There is no 'façade' in his work, as suggested by the Backyard paintings series. It's all about loving suburban culture and acknowledging its own language.
Campbell is a major (yet underrated) Australian artist and I love his 'style'.

Jon Campbell in his studio


At 5:28 pm, Blogger geoff lowe said...

I'm wondering what the relation between style and technique is?
When you go through the museum here and look at all the styles you see post-impressionist, surrealist, expressionist...global visions that are often justified or made acceptable by exaggerated use and application of technique. We even say try-to-do-it-better-than-the-original. A James Gleeson painting is much more 'finished' than those by most of the surrealists painting in Paris at the time.
However Jon Campbell moves through vernacular and style freely with a kind of 'good will'. Maybe it is for this I have never heard him called a 'major Australian artist' before?

At 6:33 pm, Blogger Helen said...

John Campbell will take his place in the end, because his work captures something implicit to Australian culture about vernacular, the relaxed, and it transcends generational understanding. I learned about Jon Campbell in year 12 art class (1997), and it was really exciting and inspiring to hear about an artist engaging with and negotiating these surrounds, our surrounds, putting his feelings about his partner up in a bus stop, something about that cuts right through..

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