Painting is Dead – Long Live Painting

Image source: Contributed

Painting (much like print) has apparently been a dying art for centuries. Michael Brennan explains how and why this creative expression lives on – and discovers young and emerging artists who are breathing new life into this oldest of art forms. 

Feature image: Odessa Mahony-de Vries, Instructions Unclear, mixed media on canvas, detail, 2021

Painting is dead. In fact, the death of painting has been declared – again and again – for the better part of two centuries. It was the French painter, Paul Delaroche, who in 1839 is said to have first announced that the medium was no longer relevant – a response to seeing a daguerreotype (an early kind of photographic image) for the first time. 

Why would anyone need to labour with pigment and brush when a more faithful representation could be achieved with the press of a button? That was the idea, anyway. But painting didn’t die. Instead, artists found new and inventive ways of pushing the medium. The game of visual fidelity disappeared as a prevalent primary objective and a host of expressive and abstracted uses for paint were able to be explored as a result.

There has been an exciting surge of painting across the region over the past couple of years. Most excitingly, it’s being pursued by younger artists. And even more excitingly still, each artist is embracing the medium with a bespoke vision and a unique voice. There’s no prevailing style or movement that binds them all together. 

In fact, it’s the difference and diversity that makes the practices noteworthy.

Noosa Regional Gallery is taking the opportunity to survey some of these new and innovative approaches to the medium by bringing together a selection of young and emerging artists. 

However, instead of displaying the works side-by-side in a large room, the Gallery will be spliced up into a series of discrete exhibition spaces – each artist presenting their work on its own terms, across a sequence of installations that celebrates the difference from one revelation to the next. 

The result will be a labyrinthine series of interconnected spaces that will take visitors on a journey from room to room, each new space offering surprises and challenging preconceptions about what painting is and should be. 

From large expressive canvases laden with paint like thickened cream, to intimate arrangements of sensuality and rebellion; to a delicate and quiet arrangement of tonal and realistic still life paintings; to a twenty-metre-long canvas that has escaped its frame and refuses to take its place on the wall; and from a space that screams the most intense blue – the painted surface extending across canvases, walls, plinths and 3D forms – to a series of minimal white fields of emptiness arranged compellingly on even whiter walls, subtle undulations in the canvas’ surfaces asking you to look beyond the colourless compositions.

This maze of immersive painterly experiences has been brought together to surprise and challenge visitors at each turn. Expect the unexpected. 

Check it out before painting is declared dead again.

About the Author /

Director of Noosa Regional Gallery and described as an ‘accidental curator’ this prize-winning painter and sculptor has moved from creating works to curating them. It all began when he opened The Trocadero Art Space in Footscray in an effort to build an arts community in the area and 14 years later it is still standing we are lucky to have him taking the arts to a whole new level in our region.

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