Time and Place: Recent Collage

Olsen Gallery, Sydney

2-20 November 2016

Time and Place: Recent Collage

By Anna Johnson

Alan Jones cuts into the language of landscape by cleaving the line between paint and surface. The horizons, branches and tide lines of his new works bear the sculptural quality of blunt sunlight and hard shadows. These are scenes that seem so familiar they almost form a collective memory: an empty beach before rain, the churned sand of footsteps, a windswept sweep of turf, the vast everyday sky. But upon closer inspection the materials are more mutable. Less predicted. Re-invented. Pale sunlight is in fact wood grain, the sharp limbs of a tree have been laser cut, the ‘working parts’ of the landscape fit together like a puzzle because each work is a painted wooden collage. Generated after a major expedition to Moonee Beach with a collective of major Australian painters, these works have a coastal source but have landed far, far afield from the tradition of an easel in the round.

“Landscape for me is a starting process. It is a place to begin. In a way these works feel like the most abstract things I have ever done. I am so removed from the formal constraints of the landscape. Unlike a laboured canvas, I work quickly and intensely on each assembled piece. The sheer surface of untreated ply allowed for an immediacy and freshness that felt like working on a sketch pad. The weight of accuracy disappeared. And when I am painting I don’t think about the lineage of history, I don’t care much for it…instead I enjoy experimenting.”

The reward for stepping outside the frame of oil on canvas is a strangely renewed intimacy with the scenery. By renting each element from the hinge of a continuous flat plane, the whole is rebuilt in a composition of brilliant fragments; grass glitters like shards, waves swell like concave shells and the horizon line cuts deep. Minimal and intricate, graphic and atmospheric, these are works which summon a sense of perpetual return. Like a peripheral glimpse, like a snapshot or like something much more personal: a sense of place built in memory, a view that’s forty summers long.

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