SCHUBERT    Art Galleries Schubert   CONTEMPORARY

 

Nick Howson

 

                 Recent Paintings

         12th October 2007   6:00pm -  8:00pm

 

     Although born in England, Nick Howson has developed a personal iconography that is quintessentially Australian. Now Melbourne-based, the artist’s recent paintings are characterized by patchwork-like landscapes subtly stylized into the diminutive scale of a child’s enchanted world. In this show - his third with Schubert Contemporary - the visual vocabulary has not so much broadened as been refined and made more potent. Suffused with the hues of the changing hours and seasons the familiar farmhouses, sheds and little churches continue to shimmer in sun-bleached fields: the rustic solemnity of mighty bulls, heroic horses and swooping magpies, disintegrating in the noisy excitement of a country race meeting or the winning goal-kick at a football match. 

 

     These paintings are meant to be enjoyed as delightful journeys of discovery but behind the charm and whimsical inventiveness, a growing social and environmental concern may be discerned. The titles Drought, Single Hut, Wreck, Arid Land and Working Cottages are significant. Howson has a prodigious ability to orchestrate his compositions - carefully positioning each shape and motif to elicit powerful optical and emotional responses. Lulling sequences of repetition and abrupt changes in perspective coerce the observer into the works. The profiled vehicles in A Sunday Drive and Freight Train silently traverse picture-planes that are depicted from aerial viewpoints. With magpie-vision we look down through hazy atmospheres to find a Farmer’s face delineated in the parched fields and an interminable Country Driveway. The vast distances and rural isolation personified in such paintings, markedly contrasts the urban existence lived below the myriad rooftops of the Overhead work.    

 

     The pictorial style of the famous 11th century Bayeux Tapestry informs the two monumental Eureka Stockade pieces. They are powerful social commentaries which challenge the apathy and sense of powerlessness prevalent today. Howson explains: “The desire to paint the story of the Eureka Stockade, our only revolutionary battle, has long been with me. Here was a colonial army in full regalia, fighting in the middle of nowhere... I wanted to portray a narrative from the position of the miners - a motley crew besieged by a mass of red charging towards them. It was a significant moment in our history: the very last battle cry of liberty and justice.”

 

     Similar notions of pride and courage pervade the action in Roy Boy. The painting references childhood memories of barracking for Collingwood in the 1970 VFL Grand Final. Nick Howson was 7 years old and had just arrived in Australia. The Magpies lost that day, but a special message had been imparted. His ongoing passion for the game and club remains undiminished: “My most cherished memories are from the time when football was played man on man, for the jumper and not for the money... That’s what I endeavour to capture in my paintings. These are things of then, but not really much has changed.”   

JACQUELINE HOUGHTON

                                                                     

Nick Howson was born United Kingdom, 1963 and migrated to Australia in 1970. Graduating with a Diploma of Fine Arts, Prahran College, Melbourne 1986, he is the veteran of more than 14 solo shows and is represented in the following  collections: Art Bank, Sydney; Australian Tennis Centre, Melbourne; Crown Casino, Melbourne; Horsham Regional Art Gallery, Horsham; St. Kilda City Art Collection, St. Kilda; Tullamarine Airport, Tullamarine; City of Whitehorse Art Collection.

 

 

 

 

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