It has been well over 100 years since The Impressionists went up against the Salon; in a war where palettes of violet blood spilled in a bid to challenge the brown and bitumen tones of convention. Yet now we seem to be seeing a re-emergence of bitumen tones, differing however from their traditional academic use and lingering towards neo gothic undertones in artwork.
In April Jan Murphy Gallery exhibited Richard Dunlop, a body of work displaying deep brown tones highlighted by Rubensque brights. His Lake of False Gods, 2009, ignites visions of creation through this drastic tonal juxtaposition. Combined with haunted figuration, you are given the impression something more sinister lurks beneath the paint. Dunlop has previously said in his work there is a “presence of something that could disrupt or destroy order.” It is precisely that, his work always seems like we have caught it in the precise moment which decides its destruction, if it goes one way or the other, the calm before the storm.
This unsettling feeling arises from the tangled, scratched mass of vegetation in Heartland, 2010. The mass of bright red and green foliage seems out of place lurking over a sickly blood red and brown botanic wasteland, almost like heaven and hell. Dunlop pushes the paint further, scratching, smudging and erasing it, like the expressionists before him, he attempts to create a sense of order in the chaos. The work is visually chaotic and perplexing, the eye moves vigorously over the canvas trying to make sense of the neo gothic botanics. Regardless of this, the paradoxical combination of life and death still seems to haunt us.
To be clichéd, someone once told me that now, in this time art does not develop, it does not progress, it simply recycles, refers to and reinvents previous styles. To me Richard Dunlop’s work is evidence of this theory. It is steeped in art historical tradition and convention, and I cannot help look at it without thinking of what came before it. Check out www.janmurphygallery.com.au for more information on Richard Dunlop’s work.