ANYWHERE DAVID WRIGHT PRINTS & PAINTINGS
This exhibition of David Wright’s work includes monochrome and hand coloured linocuts and paintings derived from a lifetime of travel all over Australia and a single trip to Antarctica. The inclusion of his visual diaries offers insight into the distillation of what David sees and into his work. His idiosyncratic approach to narrative and his view of the world is fully displayed. Having also directly experienced the landscapes from which these works derive, especially one very memorable trip with David and Sue to the bird conservancy at Newhaven off the Tanami track, I know that these works make the experience, not just the appearance, of such places accessible to all. For Kristin and me this access was made physically real as we approached a body of water which may have ended that trip, yet David with his customary cando attitude and pragmatism put his “just in case” snatch strap on the bonnet of their vehicle to help us in our under prepared vehicle. Happily, not needed! For me David is a wonderful friend and I have been privileged to be proximal to David’s artistic life over six decades. My first encounter was as a 15-year-old. David had been commissioned to decorate the hall of the school we shared for a dance. His characteristic courage and immense energy led him to go to big and bold. He drew a work that was probably 60 meters long and 2 metres high. Being the early 1960’s, psychedelic visions of life were emerging with gusto, and David’s work was an intricate weave of convoluted orange and black organic shapes covering both sides of the hall; typical of his approach to big spaces and big challenges. As one of the willing minions who came to apply the colour to the drawing, I was literally immersed in his work and loved it. On the smaller scale, his drawings and paintings of the time were receiving high praise. The intense use of the space, the swirling lines, the recognition of detail and the energy transmitted to the viewer were well established.
My next memory is of attending classes David offered on the second floor of an industrial building in Hawthorn. Now an in-demand artist David had found ways to expand the use of glass in architectural art work. He had taught himself to use a kiln to fuse and mould glass, changing the approach to such work forever. I experienced the huge generosity and encouragement offered to the many wannabee artists, and potential competitors, inspired by what he could achieve. As a qualified Architect he could have been sitting in an Architectural studio with an assured income, but his need to be an artist showing courage, self-belief and experimentation had happily won through. Perhaps that is really what he had to teach? As his career accelerated there were exhibitions to attend and architectural installations to visit. For me, there was always the enjoyment, sometimes breathtaking, of the unique designs, motifs and exquisite colour balance. More recently I have had the huge pleasure of sharing time with David in his studio. There is much to enjoy: his happiness, the intense focus on the work in progress, the accompanying discussions on local and world affairs, the constancy of his family in his life. The order of the equipment on the walls, the racks of glass and lead, the neat boxes of pencils and paints. The large, ancient, resuscitated print press, and the intricately cut pieces of lino are themselves objects of desire. Creation takes planning, logistics and a lot of hard work! The medium of glass literally places physical constraints on the artist and requires concentration on composition. In the paintings and prints of this exhibition those limitations are removed, but interestingly the focus on line, shape and composition remains. Whatever the medium, what David has to say is a constant. For some a trip into the Australian desert areas would represent total boredom. “There is nothing to see”, and sometimes the Antarctic is described as an “icy wasteland”. David shows the obverse of such
thoughts by adding the narrative he has detected to the beautiful depictions, to entice the viewer to be in these places. In these works, we experience the solitude, coldness and emptiness of Antarctica beautifully coloured in optimistic blues and whites, though the only lifeforms are inside arks and submarines. In contrast the potentially desolate image of a dry river bed at Bourke, David sees as teeming with activity. There are kangaroos drinking, making ripples in the puddles and large birds wheel overhead drawn to the food and water offered by the river. There is hope of survival. The ark and the submarine recur in another work, but this time as a ship in the desert surrounded by skeletons. What are the stories of these vessels? They certainly symbolise the industrial world producing the forces which threaten the environment in which they are found. Where is the ark going? Will the occupants be rescued? Or are they trapped in a folly of their own making? What happened to put a ship in the middle of the desert? The embryonic body forms in these vessels recall the shapes of the mudskippers in another work. In yet other works there are forms which may be trees or maybe dancing bodies. This unites us humans with our landscape, and David’s drawings link the animate and inanimate, human and animal, hot desert and iceland. However, there is a contrast between the emptiness and clarity of the Antarctica images and the intense line making in the Australian landscape. Perhaps these swirls and pressure maps, and spinning vortices represent the universal forces which influence us all. Martin Haskett
Photograph by James Grant
ARTIST STATEMENT Perhaps it was winning the Tom Piper Foods colouring competition in 1952 aged four, but I have always been attracted to drawing, particularly to nature. My childhood universe was formed at Flinders by the rock pools and the patterns made as I charted the rocks and inlets. I learned that if one invests the time then the reward is found in the complexity of life that emerges, the little worlds within. As in the rock pools, so too in the vast and beautiful outback, where watching and waiting and waiting reveals all sorts of wonderful and complex life. In the outback, unexpectedly, occasionally, a spiritual truth is glimpsed as our sense of self is gently, almost humourously challenged by what a tiny speck we are in all of creation and all of time. The ridges and mesas of the land protrude like the bones of an ancient animal and in the sand the bleached bones of past generations of creatures are like little white flags marking their passing. This is sometimes accentuated by a decaying and stranded structure built in great hope but abandoned under the relentless erosion by the elements, the isolation and the heat. It might be thought that all this would breed despair in the traveller but, if one is prudent, in the quiet and serene grandeur there is to be found purpose and meaning. The intense beauty of colour and pattern in the landscape has its own purpose and the weave of complex life that survives the difficult conditions has meaning for us too. The transformation that water makes wherever it is to be found is miraculous and hopeful. Life springs seemingly from nowhere, seeds that have lain dormant for years unwind their green energy and shrimps and frogs spring from barren sand. Threaded through this weave is the extraordinary story of tens of thousands of years of human habitation of the indigenous peoples in this remarkable land. If you add to all this
the infinite stretch of the sky at night, the horizons tied together by the ribbon of the milky way, then it is not surprising that you can occasionally feel a different scale of existence in time, unimaginable in our otherwise busy and compressed lives. Antarctica “the crystal desert” is the outback’s cold and distant cousin. In common, it is vast almost beyond belief, grand and beautiful with extraordinary colour and form and texture. It too is prone to silence and hostile to human habitation. It is more of a true desert than the outback, supporting only tissue paper thin life on its edge. It too speaks to me of our human endeavour, our strength and our fragility. What a privilege it is for me, the artist, to be able to travel to these wonderful places with my sketchbooks and inks and pens. I am fed, sometimes by the quiet sitting in one place, sometimes by the unrolling of the landscape as we travel the large distances. My sketchbooks are a great resource for me, reminding me of the beautiful places we have seen and contributing ideas for my glasswork. Over the last decade I have felt the need to revisit some of the images, to rework them away from the confines of working “en plein air”. Compared to a glass commission the time taken to complete a work is so much less and a variety of ideas can be explored more quickly. Also, compared to cutting and assembling glass, the process of printmaking feels so much softer and sinuous. Yet the use of black line bounding flat colour has much in common between the two mediums and both have their precise technical requirements. It has been great fun to produce these works and I hope they will give pleasure to others. David Wright
A WORLD LESS SEEN Having known well David Wright’s large architectural glass works that feature in educational, religious and public buildings the world over, it was a great delight early in 2019 to first see the substantial body of work of a hitherto virtually unknown aspect of his artistic practice.
As those who spend time in many of these lands as writers and researchers as well as gallerists, these insightful works both delighted and resonated. We are thrilled and privileged to present the first viewing of such impressive works that pique the imagination and offer a rare personal insight into a world less seen.
Spread out like so many graphic jewels in his Flinders studio was an amazing group of 200 + linocuts and paintings arising from more than 40 years immersion in the many different lands of the Australian outback, coastal regions and Antarctica.
Susan McCulloch OAM and Emily McCulloch Childs EVERYWHEN Artspace
Here, the timeless nature of these lands from their expansive horizons to the intimacy of bird, fish, plant, amphibian and insect life is captured with unique finesse. In delicate line and meticulous hand colouring, Wright captures both the drama and poignancy of these lands and the life they support. The Kimberley’s famed boab trees are outlined against a black ground, as though clinging to the edge of the world; brilliantlyhued flowers bloom against a red earth; the bones of a road kill animal are picked clean by eagles swirling in a maelstrom-like sky; a flock of white geese circle the receding waters of a soon-to-be dry lake; crocodiles all but blend with their watery camouflage and a keen eyed water bird broods over mudskippers as they are swept downstream. Each scene is captured with wit, spontaneity and great fondness - demonstrating that these remote lands are far from the barren deserts of popular belief.
EVERYWHEN Artspace We established Everywhen Artspace in 2019 having evolved from 10 years of exhibiting Aboriginal on the Mornington Peninsula and elsewhere from our nearby home gallery, Whistlewood. The gallery was named in tribute to the anthropologist W.E.H Stanner who said ‘One cannot “fix” The Dreaming in time, it was and is everywhen.” We work with more than 38 Aboriginal art producing communities to show acrylics, ochres, barks and 3D as well as the work of select contemporary Australian artists in exhibitions, talks, art parades, in conversations and other events.
Quandong Tree and Insects at Googâ€™s Lake, S.A. 2007, Painting 305 mm X 235 mm
Evening on the Darling River near Bourke 2017, Linocut Print 470 mm x 680 mm
Evening on the Darling River near Bourke 2017, Linocut Print Hand Painted 470 mm x 680 mm
Fiddler Crabs and Mudskippers at Broome 2016, Linocut Print Hand Painted 445 mm x 338 mm
Fiddler Crabs and Mudskippers at Broome 2016, Linocut Print 445 mm x 338 mm
Spinifex Pigeons at Karijini National Park 2017, Linocut Print 468 mm x 412 mm
Spinifex Pigeons at Karijini National Park 2017, Linocut Print Hand Painted 468 mm x 412 mm
Magnetic Termite Mounds at Emu Point, Peppimenarti 2017, Linocut Print Hand Painted 302 mm x 446 mm
Magnetic Termite Mounds at Emu Point, Peppimenarti 2017, Linocut Print 302 mm x 446 mm
Emus at Mutawintji 2017, Linocut Print 278 mm x 381 mm
Emus at Mutawintji 2017, Linocut Print Hand Painted 278 mm x 381 mm
Freshwater Crocodiles on the Paperbark at Katherine Gorge 2016 Linocut Print 292 mm x 618 mm
Jabiru Nesting at Lake Argyle 2016, Linocut Print 308 mm x 307 mm
Freshwater Crocodiles on the Paperbark at Katherine Gorge 2016 Linocut Print Hand Painted 292 mm x 618 mm
Landscape from Googâ€™s Lake, S.A. 2016 Linocut Print 228 mm x 301 mm
Landscape from Googâ€™s Lake, S.A. 2016 Linocut Print Hand Painted 228 mm x 301 mm
Flying Foxes at Ord River 2018, Linocut Print 402 mm x 312 mm
Flying Foxes at Ord River 2018, Linocut Print Hand Painted 402 mm x 312 mm
Flying Foxes at Ord River 2016, Linocut Print 145 mm x 310 mm
Roadkill Kangaroo 2016, Linocut Print Hand Painted 317 mm x 230 mm
Couple at Jabiru 2016, Linocut Print 273 mm x 228 mm
Crab in the Mangroves 2016, Unique State Print 420 mm x 320 mm
Roadkill Wombat 2016, Unique State Print 254 mm x 203 mm
Boab Trees in the Kimberley W.A. 2016, Painting 580 mm x 760 mm
White Bird in Spinifex Country 2009, Painting 295 mm x 415 mm
Spoonbills at Coongie Lakes S.A. 2007, Painting 290 mm x 415 mm
Between Halls Creek and Broome 2009, Painting 290 mm x 410 mm
Hermit Crabs and Garfish in the Kimberley 2009, Painting 215 mm x 370 mm
Spinifex Hopping Mice at Cowarie Station, S.A. 2010, Painting 285 mm x 405 mm
Bats in the Grevillea, Ord River, W.A. 2016, Painting 485 mm x 560 mm
Ark Series Frozen 2009, Painting 705 mm x 1000 mm
Ark Series Stranded 2009, Painting 560 mm x 760 mm
Ark Series Embryo Bouys 2009, Painting 580 mm x 760 mm
Ark Series Embryo Bank 2009, Painting 560 mm x 760 mm
David Wright is known primarily as an internationally acclaimed glassworker with a unique technique of working the material. Since graduating in Architecture from the University of Melbourne he has completed commissions for glasswork in numerous private and public buildings including places of worship for Hindus, Jews and Christians, schools and hospitals. His glasswork has been exhibited in Australia and overseas. He has travelled widely in the Australian outback over the last few decades and has kept sketchbook diaries of these travels. A PhD titled “The Life, Art and Religious Iconography of David Wright” was completed by the Revd. Dr. Peter French and looks at, amongst other things, the interaction between the sketchbooks and the glasswork designs.
In the preparation and showing of these works I am indebted to many people. First and foremost to Sue McPhee, my partner in life and in travel. She is a constant source of inspiration and of wonderful conversation. We share a great love of the remote places we have been and remain excited about those we will visit next.
Wright was awarded an Order of Australia Medal [OAM] for his contribution to the arts. He and his wife Sue McPhee live in Flinders, Victoria where he has his studio. More detail can be found on www.davidwrightstudio.com
GALLERY EVERYWHEN Artspace was established by art writers, curators and gallerists Susan McCulloch OAM and Emily McCulloch Childs in 2019. It evolved from 10 years of exhibiting Aboriginal art on the Mornington Peninsula and in other locations by the McCullochs based at their home gallery, Whistlewood.
Thank you to my family and friends who have over a long time encouraged me to put these pieces together as an exhibition. I am particularly indebted in this, and for his advice, to Martin Haskett. To Josephine Wright for her tireless work in designing and gathering all the material for this booklet in between wrangling two small children, and to James Collier for supporting her. To Ed Wright and Kylie Wright for their work in bringing me in to the new century and designing a beautiful website. To all those who have encouraged Sue and myself on our journeys, including in the early days, Dick [dec.] and Marg Humphries. To Susan Thompson, artist and skilled printmaker, who has been very generous in sharing her skills with me, including an intensive weekend of instruction. Finally, to Susan McCulloch and Emily McCulloch Childs for sensing in my work an affinity with the aims of their new gallery.
EVERYWHEN Artspace 1/39 Cook Street, Flinders, Vic 3929 T: + 61 3 5989 0496. E: info@mcculloch andmcculloch.com.au Open daily 10.30 am - 4 pm
Works Photographed by Vicky Penberthy David Wright Portrait Photographed by James Grant Booklet Design by Josephine Wright Printed by The Printing Hub
© 2019 David Wright
First showing of limited edition hand-painted and monochrome linocuts and paintings by this leading architectural glass artist. Garnered fro...
Published on May 21, 2019
First showing of limited edition hand-painted and monochrome linocuts and paintings by this leading architectural glass artist. Garnered fro...