Review :: Paintings

September 22nd 2011

“It’s like, it is so abject it’s good,” my companion suggested as we considered Jake Walker’s Landscape Painting 3 at his latest solo show at Gallery 9. I asked what abject meant. This same friend sent me to my dictionary with esoteric the week before. Both are ‘I-kind-of-know’ useful words to talk about art. Key-points from the dictionary on abject are: “extremely bad, unpleasant and degrading”, and “absolute and humiliating”. I guess then it is wrong to say “so abject”, because abject is absolute, but I could be misquoting. There is also a whole Abject Art theory that talks about confrontation with that which is outside the symbolic order, which I’m sure my learned friend was referencing, so excuse me for being so literal.

I do believe my friend and I were both appreciating the deep humour in this particular piece. Referencing Jake’s own practice of painting over ‘found paintings’, this painting was on a ‘found laptop’ that has a landscape shot, replete with running water, playing on the screen. Sitting on two bricks, this degraded item of technology somehow refers at once to all that painting can do, and all that it cannot.

Graphite drawings in the same room, quite distinct from Jake’s usual colourful oil paintings in varying degrees of abstraction, reveal something of his influences – buildings from his childhood and a portrait of the artist Colin McCahon. McCahon’s paintings are a notable influence on Walker’s work. Where McCahon obsessed over bridges, gates and other architectural and natural features, Jake’s work sees recurring motifs of certain shapes, structures, and in this particular show, brick walls. One painting depicts a building that fascinated Jake as a child. Built by a potter from recycled bricks, it resembles a kiln in its shape. The painting was prompted by a friend giving Jake an obscure book on notable New Zealand architecture and, sure enough, a photo of this building in the book has 6-year-old Jake in the foreground. Good story, huh?

At times Walker’s work seems to explore the act of painting as much as the figures themselves. The addition of his distinct elements to a fairly non-descript landscape painting says something of the different approaches to style, while making the work undeniably “a Jake Walker”. His ‘palettes’ capture the movement and processes of painting, seemingly frozen mid stroke. There is an unease and mystery in the way the works appear unresolved – a half formed building, hovering shapes, and incongruous patterns and subjects in landscapes, This is what keeps you looking.

What: Paintings, by Jake Walker

When: 7 September – 1 October

Where: Gallery 9, 9 Darley St, Darlinghurst

How Much: Free


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