‘Tracing time to a place’ by Stephen Bevis
Sydney artist Alan Jones, not to be confused with the radio shock jock of the same name, returns to his earliest memories of a WA Wheatbelt pub for his nostalgic first exhibition in Perth.
The 2011 Black Swan Portraiture Prize finalist (with a painting of actor Brendan Cowell) was a pre-schooler in Wyalkatchem, where his parents ran the local pub for two years until 1980.
Now age 34, Jones recently returned to the town 200km east of Perth with his father Mike, who was greeted at the local roadhouse with a warm hello after an absence of 30 years.
The locale still remember their former publican and by the time father and son had walked into the hotel, news had travelled and they drank with former acquaintances at the bar.
Jones’ experiences have resulted in the exhibition Wyalkatchem, a series of figurative oil paintings and sculpture which continue his exploration into notions surrounding identity. “The work I have been doing for the past 6 to seven years is really focused on my family,” he says. “I have been interested in tracing back our heritage, which goes back to the First Fleet. With the Perth show, I thought it would be nice to stay in that same area of interest but to go back in time to my very first memories.
“My oldest memories are from Wyalkatchem, running through the pub’s lounge bar with torches during a blackout with my two brothers and jumping off the top of a double to a bed below. Because of those faint memories and recollections, I have always associated myself with being someone who once lived in Wyalkatchem.
“All of the figurative paintings in this body of work began firstly as charcoal drawings. As the paintings developed, the dry powdery charcoal residue has bled into and mixed with the thin and very fluid oil paint to create quite a granular surface.”
Earlier this month, Jones won the $20,000 Fisher’s Ghost Art Prize in Sydney. His current show at Venn Gallery in Perth is the 14th solo exhibition from the artist, who won the Inaugural Pat Corrigan Travelling Art Scholarship in 1997 and the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2004.
When he won the Whiteley prize, a lighthearted story ran in the Sydney Morning Herald after a reporter rang the shock jock Alan Jones and asked how he felt about the win.
The artist jokes that he would be a rich man if he’d got a dollar every time someone mentioned the radio announcer as if they were making some genius connection that no one had made before.
- Wyalkatchem is at Venn Gallery, 16 Queen Street, Perth, until December 23.
Stephen Bevis, ‘Tracing time to a place’, The West Australian, 22 November 2011, Today, page 8.