Exhibition: Lightworks at ANU Drill Hall Gallery

2 October – 29 November 2020

Charles Nodrum has been invited to curate an exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery including the work of Lesley Dumbrell, Trevor Vickers, Richard Dunn and Virginia Coventry.

Cerulean, 2010, 122x122cm, oil on linen

ANU Drill Hall Gallery
Kingsley Street, Acton, ACT 2601
Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm 
Tel: 61255832   E: dhg@anu.edu.au   Web: www.dhg.anu.edu.au

When two colours or two tones are juxtaposed, they evoke a quality of light common to them both. This realisation is fundamental to all paintings which aim to produce illusions of light, space and atmosphere, including those which have been conceived by specialists in abstraction and colour –prime examples being the paintings of Lesley Dumbrell, Trevor Vickers, Virginia Coventry and Richard Dunn.


This exhibition, curated by Charles Nodrum, brings together artists of the same generation, with a closely corresponding sensibility. During their coming of age in the 1960s, the influence of post-war American painters was keenly felt. The concept of a painting as a unitary field, the importance of scale, and the primacy of colour were defining features of that era.For these painters, as Matisse once put it, “Colour helps to express light – not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that of the artist’s brain.”

Terence Maloon, Director, Drill Hall Gallery

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When Terence Maloon asked me to curate an exhibition of three artists work, he gave me as a guideline the theme of light.  Through discussions, this trio extended into a quartet.  The degree to which light is indeed the unifying theme is a moot point: we usually associate light with bright, so to justify the inclusion of those works where it is absent, I can only repeat Soulages’s riposte to those who complained his paintings had no colour: “Black is a colour”.  What is certainly a unifying theme of these artists is their long-standing commitment to geometric abstraction.
 
All four of the artists have careers stretching back fifty years.

Lesley Dumbrell’s work has kept to a fairly narrow path with optical works predominant, though in the 80s and 90s blockier forms tended to interlock rather than overlay. 

Trevor Vickers’s path has been slightly different. The format he devised in the early 60s – the bordered rectangle with a dividing line down the centre – has been his mainstay ever since but with two exceptions: occasional forays into the rectilinear shaped works of the 60s and, relatedly, into the curvilinear Catalan paintings. 

Like a number of artists around 1970, Virginia Coventry stopped painting altogether and took up photography, specialising in suites of photographs documenting (for example) the small shifts that individual owners bring to a row of identical houses. 

Richard Dunn’s career shows even wider explorations: for a senior academic, a broad interest and knowledge of the art scene as a whole is a virtual necessity.  A brief look at his career shows a wide variety of themes over the decades and this exhibition shows a small selection from one only.

Thought was given to including younger artists who also focus on light (and its perception) but I decided to fix on the present four, partly because they are contemporaries both of each other and of myself; so to accusations of ageism, I can only plead guilty.

The history of Australian art is dotted with artists whose early work remains highly prized and whose later work is seen to have not sustained expectations – Streeton being an obvious case.  Some quick arithmetic will show that these four artists have reached an age which society considers suitable for retirement.  Clearly, all four have no time for such conventions.  They all remain totally absorbed and dedicated to their practice, endlessly questioning, probing, testing – and showing no signs of resting on their laurels. 

My thanks go to the artists, Terence Maloon, Anthony Oates, Felicity Johnston of Art Collective WA, Jenny Port, Anne and Graham Simmons, and Nati and Kate Nodrum.

Charles Nodrum, Curator