Australian Fine Artist

Geoffrey Bartlett

Exhibition at the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park
March 2015

Artist Talk

Courtesy of the McClelland Gallery web site I am starting off with a little out of Geoffrey’s biography:

In 1983 Geoffrey Bartlett was honoured a prestigious Harkness Fellowship and within two years graduated from Columbia University, New York with a Master of Fine Arts (Hons). This brief but significant period was instrumental in defining the future direction of Bartlett’s sculpture. His experimental and explorative nature coupled with the maturing effects of new experiences resulted in a significant and lasting shift in his work and was the foundation of a renewed and pure independent vision.

Working predominately within the language of abstraction Bartlett’s sculptures are spatially complex; they engage with the physical qualities of tension and balance and conceptually with the interaction of opposites from the inorganic and organic, external and internal through to ideas of the physical and emotional.

Unfolding the intriguing and unique correlations that have interwoven throughout the artist’s 40 years of making sculpture, this exhibition and accompanying major publication reassess works created by Geoffrey Bartlett during his time in New York in light of works produced prior to his departure in 1983 through to the present.

Geoffrey Bartlett began his arts practice in 1972 and has over forty years of experience in producing sculptures. Contrary to his parents’ ideas about a career, Geoffrey loved art. After studying at a rural technical college in Shepparton for a Diploma for a year he went on to RMIT in Melbourne where he further developed his love of making things, especially out of found materials. Like most students he was very short of funds, so a lot of his materials came from wreckers and scrap yards close to where he was living.

He was soon sharing a rented space in Gertrude Street where many very large works were created. Geoffrey was influence by the abstract Expressionist movement and used the drawings he made as inspiration for his demountable creations. Without any thought of a market, Geoffrey made his pieces larger and larger, making use of all his new contacts for materials which they happily supplied once they got to know him. In the shared space the artists all contributed to the tools required to create their work. This sharing of space and materials etc made it possible for all of them to work.

In around 1983 Geoffrey made some new break throughs in his work which until then had been rather two dimensional. After working in the uNited States on a fellowship he started looking into making his pieces work from every angle, not just as mirror images of the front for example, but as a new view from every side. He wanted his viewers to find something new as they walked around his work.

After this his work again started to become quite large and he started using a lot more variety in his maquette construction as well as the finished models. He included colour on to his bronzes giving them a spark and boldness they hadn’t had before. Geoffrey’s work now included natural wood, steel, bronze, found materials such as bolts which are a feature in his work as well as old car parts.

One of Geoffrey’s most well known works was installed in the water at the front of the National Gallery of Victoria, where I have seen it for many years, not knowing who the artist was that created it.

Geoffrey’s works at the McClelland Gallery show the development of his work over his career. From the framed affect of his early pieces to the organic and mixed media of his current sculptures and maquette he shows an example of an artist who is constantly looking for new materials, new subjects and more creative ways of making his work.

One other thing I noticed and Geoffrey was pleased that I asked him about, was the lighting and positioning of each piece in the exhibition. He took great care in where each one was put and the lighting on it (including the large sculpture outside the front doorway). The shadows and light showing on each work for him is as important as the piece itself. I asked, because the shadows were so interesting and beautiful, I had to know whether this was an important factor.

I very much enjoyed listening to Geoffrey talk about his life and career. Learning how an artist with such a huge body of work keeps fresh and creative is very inspirational.

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