Artist Talk at McClelland Gallery
Geoffrey Bartlett has a retrospective exhibition at the gallery covering forty years of his work beginning with his early work from his years at RMIT.
Geoffrey came from a rural background in the Shepparton area. His parents moved around a fair bit as he was growing up due to his father’s work managing Maples department stores. The advantage of his work there was brining home pieces to repair or rebuild, giving Geoffrey the opportunity to learn how to build things and the interest that led to his career as a sculptor.
Family at the time of the early 1970s tried to talk Geoffrey out of a career in art, as in those days a young man was encouraged to get a steady job to help raise a family and supply a home. He was determined to follow his passion, however and after university was working with other artists in a rented space in Gertrude Street near the CBD of Melbourne.
Geoffrey used found materials and resourced materials wherever he could find them. His work was very large, seeming to grow as he kept experimenting. His travels to the USA and Japan informed his practice and he came home with new ideas on design and materials. These are evident in the changes in his work through his career.
Th incorporation of a different view from every angle in his pieces and careful placement to make the best use of light and shadow created by his pieces, has added new dimensions to his work. Moulding wax over a metal substrate and casting in bronze to add to the natural materials and steel constructs has given Geoffrey the opportunity to make works that seemingly float or flow. They have lightness and movement that defies the materials they are made from. There is also a delicacy to many parts of the work, nearly like the web of a spider, floating amid the sold wood framing around them.
The use of the concept of a frame reappears in his work over and over, a constant theme which Geoffrey bases design on and then branches out from with the addition of other design aspects such as winding staircase themes.
Although based on a style of painting that I personally am not too attracted to, the Abstract Expressionists, I find Geoffrey’s work engaging, interesting and very creative. I love his use of colour and the beautiful shadows that are cast from many his works. I enjoyed engaging a couple of school groups in discussions about his work and what they could see in it. They were able to introduce me to fresh ideas from young minds about what was displayed.
Geoffrey was a polished and interesting speaker who didn’t mind talking about himself and what motivated him as an artist. His work will be on display at the McClelland Gallery for a while yet and I encourage art students, artists and art enthusiasts to have a look at the exhibition, especially if you have a passion for sculpture. There is a very well presented catalogue book about the exhibition and Geoffrey’s story available which is also worth considering. I am currently reading and enjoying it.