Visiting Artist at Chisholm TAFE
Artist Talk: Work and Experience as a Painter
(please note their is a small swear word in the last part of this article)
Greg Ades has years of experience as a painter starting with his education in art. His training began in 1977 in Frankston Technical School (now TAFE). He followed up with a Diploma of Art & Design – Fine Art at CIT, (later Chisholm and now part of Monash University) in Caulifeld.
Greg has been Artist in Residence at 45 Downstairs (Melbourne), in a few Victorian Primary Schools and Artist in the Community for Frankston City Council. He has held several solo exhibitions and has been included in many group ones as well. He has work in collections including the Warrnambool Art Gallery.
Greg’s work beginning in the 1990s began with simple subjects and a restricted palette. He was interested in suburbia and experimented with colour to see how he could push a very simple colour selection. He also decided that working with some very toxic pigments might be a good challenge – although not one I personally recommend. Substances such as barium, manganese and chrome are best left out of your system, and even with protective gear, I would not think of using them personally.
Starting with a simple colour range of yellow, blue, green and orange and placing them where they don’t always occur in nature, gave some of the works we looked at a rather surreal feel, but still recognisable. At the same time Greg also experimented with some very large format charcoal drawings. Charcoal on a large scale doesn’t tend to allow for many alterations, so the examples we saw were even more impressive because of not only their tonal values but the clean lines.
From exteriors, Greg began working on interior scenes, inspired by things that he had seen in his daily life. He then began moving around the country after being awarded a job to do in the Woomara area to document the dentition centre. He was struck by the sparseness of not only the landscape but the township and living quarters and began a body of work reflecting his responses. As he moved from dry arid landscape to the Bungle Bungles and then on to Broome and the Daintree, Greg modified his palette to reflect the landscape and interpret in his work. Cadmium Red and Chrome Green were added as he challenged himself further. Mangroves, water and the different greens of the rainforest required an interpretation.
The new challenges meant that a new medium was added, that of water colours. These handled the strangler figs and the interesting root systems in the mangroves, and the addition of yet more colours to the palette or Cadmium Green, Ultramarine and Red Violet (Cadmium Purple) – and added a new dimension to his work. I particularly like his water colours done at this time, the complementary colours and the free use of the water colour paints I felt were very attractive.
The mangroves sent Greg on a journey of investigating patterns and life cycles, the roots of the trees turning into points of interest all of their own. Again more colours were added to the palette, Red/Orange (Vermillion) being one of them.
Most recently Greg has been working in South West Victoria, Tasmania and Mt Kosiosko Victoria. His interest in the contrasting warms and cools, in the form of purples and greens, of rock formations against the grass and soil colours give interesting texture to his work. He also has interesting perspectives and viewpoints, rather than some of the ones we may expect to see as we walk in these same areas.
Greg is currently working towards his next exhibition and as he is probably close to my age, I very much admire his work ethic and common sense approach to his practice. Not afraid to experiment with materials, but still painting subjects which for most of us are identifiable and beautiful to look at. I found him to be a breath of fresh air from what can be – wherever you may go, a run of dare I say, pretentious and ignorant people who try to speak about art and prove they don’t know that much.
Which brings me to the last part of Greg’s talk. Curators. Sorry I am quoting and am going to swear. “Curators that don’t know shit” Not my quote, but one that I found interesting. As Greg said, some people ignore what’s going on for the popular and the sensational. For example the statement that “painting is dead” because of photo realism, installation/digital art etc in contrast to what is really going on quietly in studios of artists – painting, which it seems is alive and well. Who knew? I see a lot of support, grants and government paid events for installations especially, and “performance art” but have in recent events found it difficult to find some great examples of drawing and painting – as if they were non existent or just not happening. As a painter it has had me asking some big questions about my own practice and future.
Greg stated that comments such as “painting is dead” are made by those that ignore painting so they don’t look stupid from lack of understanding. A strong comment, but one that I can’t help wondering about.
I asked Greg if I could quote him in this blog and he agreed, which I must thank him for. Making bold statements like that can bring a lot of heat and unwanted remarks back on a person. I must, however in all honesty agree with him partially. I have recently seen work being done in a few universities by students, and in galleries by graduates as well as practising artists. Apart from the major shows by places such as the NGV, or some regional galleries, your would think that painting – especially of a realist type, was dead. I hope that is just a perception and not reality because in all honesty my paintings are going to last longer than the operating system on a Windows computer for a digital public art event, and they won’t crash.
For Greg as for me, painting is very much alive, vibrant and exciting. It still holds a lot of potential and challenge. It also is something that sits beautifully on many walls in many places for those wanting a place to sit or stand to take a breath away from the stresses of daily life. I think I have found the subject for my Masters should I be accepted next year.
Thanks Greg for an interesting, challenging and honest talk.