VISUAL ARTS - ASHLEY CRAWFORD
John Anderson Recent Paintings
“John Anderson is a painter. He is almost an old-fashioned painter, a lover of landscape, of chiaroscuro, of the shadowy twilight zone of the dusk where mysteries hover just out of sight.
Lawyer Julian Burnside launched Anderson’s show last Saturday and summed up the strange allure of these paintings in exactly the way I had hoped to describe them……There is… no clear evidence of misdeeds, but the lawyer in Burnside could feel them oozing out of the sumptuous paintwork, the darkness created by overhanging boughs and thick undergrowth.
There is almost a school of shadows in Melbourne art. Anderson’s work would sit comfortably in a room of paintings by Rick Amor and Louise Hearman and photographs by Bill Henson and Jane Burton. In all of these artists’ works a degree of mystery is concocted via a dark palette and a theatrical, almost baroque, sense of space.
…..This show reveals a painter at the height of his powers; sensual, almost gothic and probably unfashionable—but that is to his credit.”
Ashley Crawford The Sunday Age November 27th, 2005
VISUAL ARTS REVIEW
County roads are charming and fatal, John Anderson paints them as visually sumptuous, full of hypnotic pitta-patta and noble growth ; but along the shrubby tunnels with variegated canopy, an air of foreboding closes in and you feel somewhat unsafe.
There’s something in Anderson’s paintings at William Mora that seem true to the experience of the places that he describes. His canvases are managed in a loose and rough way, where the scruffy undergrowth and uneven light are exaggerated by the brush. And this irregularity makes the pictures bump and breathe along the country road in a way that resonates with the unique seduction of sway and jerk of a motor car barrelling along an unsealed surface.
When you get off the freeway and enter those narrower roads where the trees haven’t been cleared for metres around, you notice a breathtaking change, where the very idea of a road recedes to pathway, both beautiful and imperfect, intimate and treacherous—not the road, but the car that travels upon it , always going at maximum speed within the bounds of safety and sometimes beyond.
Anderson leaves you in no doubt that his narrow roads are far from the idyllic forms in a rustic landscape, as in the 17th century genre. His delightful roads are the haunts of a reckless automotive muse. The tyres have left their savage mark on the ground; and in other pictures, he puts the rolling stock in it’s cultural context : speedy sports-cars with grotesquely enlarged engines and pretentious body shapes.
As in previous shows, Anderson equates the motorcar (retro and contemporary) with sexual fantasy, showing its ostentatious sensuality alongside boozy businessmen groping or eyeing off one another’s women. The females are consigned to a life of display in thin clothes, dancing on-cue to phallic economy of fast cars and big spending blokes.
What peace, therefore, do you gain from the painter’s view of the countryside with its picturesque roads? The compromised width that causes the road to be free of buses or lorries is the very feature that makes them appealing for urban hoons, who have no purpose in using the road but to discharge some erotic thrill.”…….
Dr Robert Nelson, Associate Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts and Design, Monash University. The Age, Wed.30th Nov.2005
GOOD WEEKENDER- 10 THINGS TO DO
“ Recent Paintings …. John Anderson’s lush oils recall some of the old masters, but their motifs fix these paintings firmly in the present.”
The Age Magazine Saturday 19TH November 2005
The age-old art of ‘ painting’ cannot be seen more fully than in John Anderson’s exhibition. He employs old master techniques in a 21st century narrative where you invent your own story of events within the canvas. The result is a surprising impressionistic landscape which pulls at realistic sensibilities and massages contemporary urges -- Anderson traverses the bridge of realism and contemporary gestures’ and satisfies both.
Gusty and highly textural in finish and surface, filmic with a weird narrative or suggestive outcomes, the canvases are enlivened by the energy of the brush. In an era of ‘ techno-fatigue’ we really appreciate what painting is about.
ART ALMANAC Nov.2005
John Anderson: Recent Paintings
“ This love of lush vivacious paint surfaces is continued at William Mora Galleries in the new works by artist John Anderson.
Anderson lives and works on the ( Mornington) Peninsula. His subjects include Cape Schanck, Shoreham, Red Hill, as well as figurative interiors. All are bathed in a dark chiaroscuro. Moody browns romance iridescent greys with feathered expressionistic stroke that drifts between El Greco and Max Meldrum.
Anderson’s landscapes offer a road that transports the viewer from foreground through a wooded tunnel to light at the end of the track.
His forms have a hurried, ragged appearance to them that probably takes a long time to achieve.
When he uses figure the consumer society begins to appear, such as the good life floating on a li-lo in a swimming pool and fast cars in a showroom of materialistic delights.
Bimbos and baubles are fluently drawn narrative. This is not a neutral multi-figuring of a canvas, but a critique of contemporary society.
Jeff Makin, Herald Sun Monday 21st November 2005
The deep throb of the V8 engine cuts through the glowing dusk. The black hull of the car shines in the shadows, its windscreen reflecting the toxic orange of sunset. Skimpily clad call girls, oblivious to the predatory beast behind them, confer about the evening to come. The freeways ahead resemble medieval buttresses as the traffic zooms and careers around the scene.
Auto Vista is an almost Shakespearian interpretation of modernity. The automobile as symbol of the future has a rich history, but for all the gleaming speed of John Anderson’s vehicles, they travel through a world that is part futuristic science fiction and part distopian gothic. There is no denying the cinematic blast one gets from these paintings. We are somewhere resembling the cityscapes of Gotham City or Blade Runner.
Auto Vista feels futuristic. Yet the cars are vintage 1960’s. The mis en scene feels like a moment in a film, yet it is most decidedly painting. Indeed, in this day and age of computer-generated art, Anderson is, first and foremost, a painter. The visceral nature of his surfaces, his post-apocalyptic palette of deep oranges and reds, blacks and yellows, recalls the sheer physicality of the act of painting.
Anderson’s brushstrokes soar and plummet, they zoom around corners and suck the viewer into their vortex. In Boulevard, we feel the heat of the exhaust, hear the crackling of asphalt as the tyres pass over its surface. To the left we glimpse the Dromana drive-in, a moment of drama where a wind-swept heroine turns away; but it is all slightly wrong. Anyone who has driven through Dromana will know that; for all the occasional literal reference points, this is a landscape from John Anderson’s imagination, a cornucopia of impressions filtered through a bizarre time warp of memory.
Even when Anderson goes pastoral, as in Avenue, nothing is at peace. Despite the gorgeous autumn palette, one can sense the hot wind and the dry dust in the air. Nor is the beach an escape from turbulence. Rocks at Fingal Beach is a Turneresque fury of turbulence, of glowing grey skies and shifting reflections.
There is something theatrical about Anderson’s approach to painting. Even though a boating trip exudes a strange, dramatic sense of threat, as though something were about to occur, something not particularly pleasant. It is, without doubt, the colours Anderson uses. While the participants frolic, the water about them seems to churn, patches of it an ominous purple while the sky is a miasma of boiling colour; the boat may well be becalmed, but the elements surrounding it are hell-bent on potential chaos.
Ashley Crawford -- Catalogue for Melbourne Art Fair 2004
THE PURITY OF GETTING YOUR HANDS DIRTY
“You only have to look at John Anderson's paintings to guess that he's an artist who gets his hands dirty... Anderson's paintings [are] just incredibly vigorous. The real vigour doesn't come from the shoulder or the wrist but a finely honed decision making process, it may well be that he literally gets his hands dirty-I lhave no idea- but the real grit and smear of his paintings is metaphorical rather than directly physical... Many of the paintings have a sexual charge...showing a world on the prowl or engaged in hot and grimy rituals. His pictures reflect contemporary circumstances in a filmic way; he paints freshly and usually retains a curiosity for the forms of his motifs, so that he avoids formulae and imaginatively follows his obsession.
The beauty of getting your hands dirty in the sense of Anderson's painting is that you communicate an experience, real or imagined, to an audience with an air of immediacy and sympathy. It's an aesthetic of not being detached but allowing yourself to be implicated in the scandals of other people's peccadilloes. Anderson's pictorial honesty is to paint directly and valiantly the shamelessness of his own imagination."
Dr Robert Nelson, Associate Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts and Design, Monash University. The Sunday Age, October 1, 2000.
Western society senses it’s irrelevance in the face of greater forces and human endeavours take on a fragile, ineffectual, staged appearance. This leads to the paranoid, apocalyptic visions of natural and man made disasters which typify end of the century imagery. Such a dark, faithless vision characterises these recent paintings.
Anderson’s vision of the physical world is vivid, materialistic, dynamic and sensual. Yet his understanding of existence is one of chronic uncertainty and intangibility. In his words it is a world in which” what seems to be could always be otherwise.” The figures in his paintings are inevitable “players” who live unknowable narratives, acting out desires and hopes, successes and failures, struggling with themselves and the conditions of their existence in a shabby but glamorous fashion.
Anderson’s interior settings play on themes of decay and redundancy - the consumed meal, the half-built overpass the outmoded fashion and redundant technologies. This is a world where significance is fleeting. Events have a dynamic, immediate quality but are viewed with nostalgic detachment as if obsolescence is inevitable. Outside, the elements, air, sea and land are monumental, impending, transient and dynamic, symbolising the inevitable influence of uncontrollable factors.
Anderson’s painterly technique reproduces a sense of flux, immediacy and transience. Visceral and gestural, Anderson’s technique reproduces his view that both living and painting are an immediate and tangible struggle with the elements beyond us. There are no preliminary sketches and there is no underdrawing. Like life, everything happens when it happens.”
Lara Travis, Curator William Mora Galleries for Catalogue –May 1999
…….John Anderson is a local artist who has been developing slowly and is an equal to New York’s Eric Fischl.
It is a more apocalyptic vision than Fischl, with ominous gloom clouds and meteors interrupting near naked survivors taking their last pleasures on the convertible in paintings such as Highway.
Anderson’s drawing and composition skills are excellent, but the orgasmic power of the works erupts from those slashes of palette knife that he wields like a sword.
Jeff Makin The Herald Sun Melbourne 25th May ’99
EVERYWHERE, NOTHING’S LIKE ART YAKKA
…..how brave and accomplished John Anderson is. His show at William Mora is full of figures in dramatic actions, the archetypical boxy car; movie set locations and moody skies. The dramatic perspective’s are shot through with flashes of skin and clothing, all sufficiently well-drawn to convey a variety of emotions, from sexual excitement to surprise, humour and sombreness.
Anderson is profuse with enigmas, as he is fluent with paint. It’s clear that the actions have a filmic sense of simultaneous episodes; but you can never be sure if two couples, for example, are four people or just one couple who appear twice in a continuous narrative. You’re encouraged to pry into these ambiguities (at least if you have a dirty mind) because one couple is just as likely to be undressed and doing naughty things.
His figures have peremptory drawing but are always functional, with a clever sense of choreography that, it could be argued, shows greater graphic skill than a more comprehensive manner of drawing, with all details of a figure recorded. He works like an inspired illustrator, rather than a draftsman with model.
Vivacity of painting and compositional conviction prevent his work from looking merely illustrative. It’s high drama, perhaps not with Shakespearean authority but with internal consistency and inventive freedom.
Dr Robert Nelson The Age 11th Sept. 1996
KYM BONYTHON - A Personal Comment
"I acquired my first John Anderson from William Mora in 1996. On the day of the Mertz auction, the only painting I bought was another John Anderson. I am most taken by his work. I believe he will leave his mark on Australian art in the years to come."
Kym Bonython AC, DFC, AFC, KSJ, Hon. Dip. Uni. S.A.
Art Collector, Entrepreneur and Promoter
Author of six books on Modern Aust. Art
THE EARNESTNESS OF BEING SELF IMPORTANT
Anderson’s paintings have some of the atmospherics of Tintoretto combined with the loose brushstrokes of American Eric Fischl. Like the latter, their subject veers towards the psychosexual, although they are altogether more dreamlike and therefore less disturbing than Fischl’s tableaux of everyday American perversity.
John McDonald Sydney Morning Herald 13th May 1995
ARTIST WITH AN EERIE AIR OF REPRESSED INTENSITY
......"I think a lot of people may see much of my art as some sort of betrayal of the idea of modernism, but I certainly don't " he said.
Anderson said he has ended up with a model where he was basically creating a frame of space in time where events could be kalidescoped in such a way that memory, both present and past , is moving together. The frame of space is populated by " almost stereotypical " figures.
While having an abiding interest in artists such as Tintoretto and Velasquez, Anderson describes his working methods as being more in the vein of the American expressionists.
" I carry out the work on the canvas with very little preliminary drawing" he said.
" I never go near the studio, unless I know I have hours to spare. "
Richard Waller The Brisbane Courier 27th Sept. 1995
“John Anderson has described his work as a search for a personal pictorial language able to carry an elusive, open-ended narrative within a spatially flexible structure. This narrative elusiveness (or equally, mysterious and inexplicableness) is most often commented upon his work. His characters are frozen in the midst of compelling dramas, nocturnal power plays and illicit assignations, unknown in origin and uncertain of outcome.
Anderson’s technique echoes the apparently random encounters of the sensual, self-absorbed figures in his work. He works in a searching, intuitive manner, with little preparatory drawing, building up form through contrasts of light and dark, in much the same manner as the Baroque old masters” reliance on chiaroscuro. Indeed, the moral ambiguity invoked by the emergence of the chiaroscuro painting style is exploited by Anderson. whose attitude towards the seamy encounters of his characters is never moralistic. Images of turbulent sea and shadowy bush settings show that the natural world can be equally dramatic and mysterious as the actions of his decadent characters.”
Extract from William Mora Galleries web site www.moragalleries.com.au