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Exhibition Statement 2022:



I am drawn to paint outside, often within nature where discovery is heightened. The process starts with wondering, looking into the world, feeling a sensation, making a decision and stepping into an unpredictable act where time and place take on a specificity, becoming palpable and appreciated.


The act of painting outside can often be uneasy whilst coupled with euphoria. In my mind the approach of painting from life feels wholesome and present, it imparts a sense of being and opportunity which makes one feel they are just at the beginning.


Accompanying Text to the 2022 show:


In the order I usually paint; I dart around the landscape, a patch here and there, the sky comes out and the ground arises until things merge halfway in the middle. The land is solid and the effects of the sky and the light are unpredictable, depending on the time and the day. I am often on the scene towards the end of the day where light moves its fastest, so the light will be chasing itself within the work. There are no still moments. Everything is in flux, most of all the figures. This is why I paint the figure towards the end, where I'm somewhat confident that they have something to stand on and somewhere to sit. 


There is some kind of Murphys Law, that as soon as I see the figure I wish to paint, even if they have been seated for two hours, it is at the moment start I paint them that they now decide to leave. All of the figures I have added to my paintings are people who were actually there, captured as they are walking through my work. It is a monstrous struggle to muster up the moment to capture them, the figure and its moving parts all in that instant. I have to photograph that in my mind, a sharp visage of things in motion to even try.

Rain does not deter me from painting outside, I can always have one hand on a flailing umbrella and one hand on my brush. I have learned over the years that the unease of the moment can actually make the attitude at the end of my brush more purposeful and direct.

In my previous work, I had the need to add dots to the painting, and I am still drawn to that, as it gives me a feeling of consistency and articulation. But recently, it became clear that my aim now had become to create a painting from the bottom up and not the top down. I wanted the work and every part of the mark-making to emerge from the painting as one, not as separate parts. I wanted the band to play together in cohesion, where one player shifts his dynamism in response to another at that moment. I felt strongly about this once seeing the work (only online, unfortunately) of Leon Kossoff, where the painting is one work, where the paint is one paint and it all steps materially together, where mistake and success are welded into a charged but blissful whole.  

I had always been bothered by the fact that the intricacy of what I see is too detailed for my painting. How to capture the single leaf, let alone the thousands of them fluttering in the wind, each with their own infinite kind of complexity of further detail - it was a question I denied when painting. However, I recently realized to my comfort, that the complexity of every mark, a knot of paint within a knot of bristles are of equal complexity, if you look at any single brush stroke closely it is of equal detail as anything of similar size you view into the world.

When I was young, I had a book titled Impressionist Dreams. I used to leaf through this book over and over again. Looking at the work of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists, Renoir, Monet, Pissaro, and Van Gogh, has always been a kind of therapeutic viewing for me. Feeling the sunlight shimmering across the row of trees, tiny blobs of layered paint that can make you feel physically warm, a bundle of leaves in the tree slowly rocking somehow on the page. The approach of painting in dots and dabs has helped guide my hand. It has put a limit to where I am aiming by creating a lattice that lets the dab of paint hopefully speak for itself.


Overall I now aim to bring my subject matter closer in.

Statement for 2020 Exhibition at Artsite Galleries: Topography

​Most of my recent paintings have been done without looking out beyond the canvas. They are a form of practical imagination, in the sense that I ask myself what can be done with these wet and oily pigments onto this given space. An empty white wall can be an exciting place and has many visions to offer.

I enjoy the exploration of building up the artwork through layers and observing and responding to the subtleties that emerge. Often this is based on the fact that a line can be painted in two ways, this being either a painted line or everything painted but a line, with both approaches having quite different outcomes. The second approach I have found more difficult, but more interesting.

​Many of these recent works are portrayed as strata and go by the name of topography. I sense that the lateral geometry of these paintings gives a settled composition and offers a number of ways to be read. These panoramic sections are to depict junctions or views through a landscape at different time periods or locations.

​I find a tension between figurative and non-representative elements of the work, and I think this is what drives me to paint over the original layer with patterns, as a way of synthesising the two. The subject matter is about time, devotion, nature and connections. I use the figure in my work in the same way that punctuation marks are used to convey meaning to words.

​I try to achieve a consistency and uniform weight, giving equal attention to detail in all areas of the work. My goal is to find the point where the scene appears to come together in front of me, with an energy that has a meditative harmony. It is at this point that I think the painting has been hopefully completed. I have understood that there is no magic solution to making art, there is not an approach that will simply work, there is no clear way of seeing the ramifications of decisions until they are actually made. It is this unknowing and discovery that keeps drawing me in.

Opening speech for 2018 Exhibition.

The first painting by David Brook I saw was in a group exhibition in Bondi in 2008. I was impressed and soon after we met and David showed me some of his Life Paintings. They were depictions of the eastern suburbs – streets and houses, parks, corners of the harbour, everyday life. I’ve always liked this kind of work, which has a long history in 20th-century Australian art. Russian émigré Danila Vassilief painted the streets of urban Fitzroy in the 1930s and 40s and influenced a generation of artists including Nolan, Tucker, and Perceval. Or the Swiss Sali Hermann, who was known as the terrace house painter for his depictions of Paddington, at that time a slum. It’s an approach that still appeals to artists like Tom Carment or Noel McKenna, or David.

There’s a kind of honesty and directness in this work. But it’s a genre of art which disguises its art in the cloak of the everyday. Flat depictions of streets or corner shops are not in themselves interesting. It takes a much closer look, a more attuned eye. David talks about this is his notes to accompany this exhibition, which are really worth reading –

I enjoy and look forward to painting from everyday life because it is experiential. The experience is not only the act of painting but the shift to looking at the world from a different perspective…. When you’re just hanging around for the sake of seeing and experiencing this, you get a richer feeling of your reality. You develop a feeling for the place, even if you’re painting your own street, and that feeling of a sense of place can sometimes last for hours.

So it’s about achieving a different vision, of selecting and combining events and visual details into a summary of the experience or view that prompted the painting. The end result is paintings that remake the everyday world, allowing us to see the familiar in a different, richer, more intense way.

Over recent years David has moved away from the straightforward painterly approach of the Life Paintings. While the subject matter may stay the same, he has introduced pattern into his work. This allows him to break up the reality he sees, for example into bands that alternate objects and patterns - linear landscapes that he calls Topographies. David’s use of pattern has given him much more control over the painted surface, which is even more pronounced when he also uses dotting. Patterning and dotting act as a kind of gauze or grid, pushing the figurative elements backward, flattening and geometricizing them, and unifying the composition. They also introduce a distinct visual hum, an optical effect that suggests an almost cosmic energy that starts from the tiniest marks and radiates out.

The newest paintings in the exhibition, made when David and Hanna visited China earlier this year, show how dotting and a low key, tonal palette can create works of unexpected visual and emotional power.

I’d like to finish with a brief comment on the role of people in David’s paintings. You notice pretty quickly that David’s human subjects nearly always have their eyes closed. When I asked about this, he said he was more interested in depicting people looking within that staring out at the viewer. He is interested in inner worlds, but evoked using the outer world as a scaffold on which to build a sense of experience, feeling, and emotion into the painting.

So these paintings of landscapes, cities, and people are also about something entirely different. They are about states of mind, about energy, about the ecstatic experience, about a universe humming and buzzing with life force. They offer something unique, and I urge you to take it up, to do as Robert MacPherson implored at the end of his series Little pictures for the poor: “Enquire within”.
John Cruthers is a Sydney-based art consultant, curator, writer and collector. He is a curator of the Grundy Collection of Australian art and curatorial adviser of the Cruthers Collection of Women's Art at the University of Western Australia.

Hole in the Fence:
Making art is about searching, about looking for a translative moment,
about being able to stand close to the fastest and dirtiest train the world has ever known.

Need: A need for details
With no regard for the bigger picture.

Painting: Living with the choices you made

Awake: When you're awake in the middle of the night go to your window to listen to soft sound of sirens.

Rushing to the plane
Boarding now, flashing
Guide dogs dancing
across the runway.
Waiting to get off the plane
Waiting for a movable bridge,
Watching the water galloping down.

#today I carved this head when my teacher wasn't looking.

Ok I'm back!
Back into my hole

August 2013

You will get to know your painting if you sleep with it in your room.
When you lie down and wake up, you see it in ways that you can’t see
when you're going about your everyday life.

July 2013

I spend a lot of time staring at the painting and painting it in my mind to avoid mistakes, trying this and that.
It can involve any aspect of the image, the dots or the lines that could be, which direction should they go, which area, what size,
how I’m going to hide this part, etc. Sectioning parts off in the mind by putting a blind eye on certain aspects. There are so many variables, sometimes it was the right approach, and other times I can’t imagine it at all, so I have to paint it and see what it really looks like. It’s hard to hold so many moves in your head, that it’s not unlike chess. Once you make the right move the next step becomes clearer, some times you can make the wrong move or many of them. Sometimes your opponent lets you take your move back, sometimes they don’t.

July 2013

All music is about death.

November 2012

Shake the can until it turns cold then press very slowly
and little specks shoot out to create for yourself a global cluster.

Jam on the brakes in reverence to a sparrow

On the run:
Best time to write a song is when you are running late to a meeting, or just when the plane is about to touch down, and best when the seatbelt sign turns off.

In music and art and everything, every sound and mark comes at the sacrifice and expense of everything else.

Can be spooky and insane, the pursuit of turning 
nothing into something and something to nothing,

while some whisper: good luck..good luck..

One can learn all temperaments and good character traits from jazz solos.

November 2011

I'm taking the water to the horse and he just keeps on drinking.

Nov. 2012: I went to journey outside to paint but when I got there,
I realised that I forgot to bring brushes
I chewed on sticks to paint with but it didn’t go so good.

August 2012. I bite my tongue and then my tongue tastes itself.

My friend says..
June 2012

“an art exhibition is like a book launch but where everyone reads the book in front of you”

What is light.

When I look at a star, I know that my eyes could see that star anywhere, say 10 hours drive from here, if so what is it that is making its way to my eye, whether I'm standing here, 10 hours away and every cm in between. I don’t see how something could make its way approximately everywhere at once. Someone explained it to me, but I don’t understand it.

June 2012

When I was young I used to get this feeling a lot,
and only sometimes I have it now but rarely.
It is having a feeling for the place you are in,
it feels good, it is like magic when you got it.
Works best when it happens without you trying.
I remember being in primary school looking out the window
of my class room and seeing the top of a hill,
or was it the tops of pine trees on a sunny day,
It was a park and I would feel what it was like to be there,
without being there, maybe it felt better than being there.
At night in my house I could sense it in the empty back streets around my
neighbourhood. I could feel what it was like out there -
i didn’t need to be there just to know that it was there.
I felt it in many places I’d go, I felt it in Jerusalem.
It gave me a sense of comfort and made me feel alive.

February 2012

There is something complicated
but simple and beautiful about knots.

Over the bridge.
December 2011

I have a dream:
That a Chinese emperor came crying to me.

November 2011

They say there are 100 billion galaxies with 100 billion stars in each one.
And I can’t find the headstone that needs re-gilding
in the forgotten corner of the cemetery of a deadman.

November 2011

An early memory of being in an art class was the teacher telling us that artists like to go to deep into the country so they can paint with no sounds to distract themselves from their painting, now I know she was just trying to shut us up.

October 2011

Seeing is so entwined with knowledge,
what you see is what you understand.
If you don’t understand you don’t see.
Aldous Huxley understood this and he explains it well.
Some people saw it.

We are expected to be:
September 2011


August 2011

The realisation:
That I’d rather be with you sober,
That I'm nothing more than somebody
that likes to lose himself because I'm hopelessly
devoted to something that I don’t understand myself. 

July 2011

Painting is about not being stingy to yourself.

June 2011

Never lose sight of
the vision of your
daydream reflection
notion cousin.

blood in the bath
June 2011

Like the apple core in the middle of the road and the moonshine by day.
And the paint that makes its way from my hand to my shirt and then onto yours.
I will be here for you.

Π June 2011

Love is a feeling that nothing lasts forever.

May 2011

Feel like sighing a thousand times to the cats and the moon. Living in a world of words and people,
going faster than they have ever been before.

If you paint>
May 2011

If you paint the trees before the skies
or the sky before the trees, there is a huge difference.

September 2011

I'm trying to imagine the composition for:
A sunset on a moon, which are both setting on another sun,
stars above and a walking figure below on the surface,
and it’s not easy, and I liked to try.

May 2011

​Making art is about the actions of ideas becoming the ideas of actions
and a play or a march is the other way around.

April 2011

Patience is not a virtue.

April 2011

Unless love loves you it doesn’t feel like love.

April 2011

The feeling of what the night will be is more important than what the night will become.

March 2011

This world like the night before.
The next, like the morning after.

The land.
March 2011

The landscape existed first, people come into the landscape and they can walk out of it. People come at the end of a painting, they are placed above the previous paint.

January 2011

How do I look at the art of somebody, u cant stand.
This person could be a murderer, who has made a great piece of art,
how do I feel about it? there are numerous gradations of this example,
but the point is clear, how do you feel…..about it.
If you know the answer, you may already be wrong.

December 2010

​“An amateur is someone who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint. A professional is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint.” (Ben Shahn)

November 2010

Art is many things. But when I was recently in a hospital I was reminded of how the function of art there is a healing one. A hospital is a place of mixed emotions and seeing all the art up there lining the walls. It says to you, you are here but try to remember that we are able to choose the way we see, try to see things differently and make things different out of our selves and the world.

Stand Alone
November 2010

We all stand alone
with nothing other than a rock and a dripping tap,
and the moon setting fast and hard over this city
we all live in, we stand alone.

Great Fire.
November 2010

After spending a few days in London you will notice bricks – everywhere and in all colours, it became an obsession to me and I took a lot of photos and made a video about it. Not sure why there are so many bricks there but I know the great fire of London had something to do with it. You can see that there is beauty in every brick – in some, it just takes longer to see. They are all set in a pattern known as the English Bond.

An Iota.
October 2010

I never have seen so much art in my life.
There is something mysterious about Gauguin colours.
I don’t think any has been overrated about Van Gogh.
Barcelona incarnates Gaudi. Feel 13 looking at Dali.
Miro’s green is good. My shoes remind me of Miro.
I really liked the Bruegel paintings.
Loved Rousseau and Renoir.
Uncertain about Oscar Kokoschka
There was something that blew me away about Cezanne’s card players.
But I can’t remember what that was now.

From The Inside.
October 2010

Something creepy about being a tourist. Meaning it does not feel right to look, walk and look some more. It is so indulgent and mindless to stare like a tourist, you have to give back a bit, by painting it…try to blend in and see things from the inside. Once I came really close to getting paint all over the carpet of a UNESCO world heritage site. And if I did, who pays? Like the time when my kids nearly broke a bunch of Perceval and Boyd potteries displayed waist high and haphazardly.

Checkout Time..
October 2010
 Suddenly in an English garden.

Hard in an English toilet.

Under pressure in a British airport,

and on the plane.

In the Spanish airport.

In the lobby of the hotel Condado,

and again in the hotel room.

Finding it hard to sleep in Barcelona.

I don’t speak Spanish anymore.

A Hangover
October, 2010

A hangover is an organisms act of rebellion against itself. If only we felt the joys of just simply being alive and what a pleasure it is to be, but then we forget and forget this over and over again.

September 2010

​Thinking about how somebody can live or spend years of their life comfortably in a small location as we all do. We spend chunks of our lives in certain spaces ie our bedrooms. A little space has so much to offer an individual that they could spend major parts of their life in this particular space.
Yet when we move through space, as we travel in our car we travel through the distance of properties, we traverse space so quickly, it totally defies the importance and preciousness of space that it’s almost meaningless.

Far vision>>
September 2010

A while back when there was a Sidney Nolan exhibition on at the Art Gallery of NSW. There was a small brochure printed, I had one from somewhere. On the cover was a photograph of him in the studio and far in the background was painting leaning against something it was very insignificant in the image. However when I saw this painting in the background of this photo I was inspired about something in terms of shape and how the paint was going down. I went to the exhibit and I really liked the show but I was more inspired from this image that was about 2cm or less.

I find this happens often, another example was when I was pulled over on the side of the road (I'm not sure why) and I was looking through the window of a restaurant, quite far at the back of a side wall I saw an image which was intriguing to me. From the blurriness of distance I saw a smallish painting of a woman standing on a beach the dark blue ocean intersecting her and a sky above, from the top of the sky was a huge dog leaping down from the sky with its paws outstretched above her, what a strange image, lady and dog from the sky. I told my wife in the car that I needed to take a closer look at this and I quickly went inside to see it for myself, as I approached the image, it started to disassemble itself and suddenly I was looking at a generic print of a rose...

People. August 2010

People are funny, someone can paint 1000 paintings, pour himself into each of them, and she or he can win a little art prize and it means more to most people most of the time.

No squeezing outside.
July 2010

Here is a photo of my paintbox and palette, I'm always trying to make myself lighter when outside, so no tubes and no squeezing takes place.

Wedding under a green sky.
August 2010

Wedding after seeing a quote from hitler: ”Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and fields blue ought to be sterilized”.

July 2010

I received the Art Spectrum prize, good feeling to be able to open all these boxes of paint, thank you Art Spectrum. Opening the 500ml buckets removing the lid smelling the saffron oil. I just stuck my thumb in the Naples yellow. This seems to be the colour that the sun turns things into. There’s dark green which would be the colour of grass in the shade, mixed with Naples Yellow the grass is now in the sun. The black tar road often seems to me to be a kind of black Naples Yellow when’s it suns.

July 2010

Having these weird sensations while driving and I will actually feel it, that in the deeper part of my upper thigh, all of a sudden a large spider appears in a sort of spontaneous way as if from nowhere until I push the feeling idea away of these dammed thoughts.

I found a drawing on the floor in my house, (because the kids go through things when we sleep and bring things out), that I haven’t seen for years. Interesting process on a clear plastic sheet, I used a needle to scratch lines into it, then I rubbed black ink or something and it stained the scratched lines, like a tattoo.

July 2010

Found a stop - called Johnson’s lookout, looking down over all those trees, seeing pale yellow-greens, yellow-greens, warm yellow-greens, copper yellow-greens, off yellow-greens, neon yellow-greens, suicide bomber greens, blood greens, bright red greens, light blue-greens, purple greens, warm purple greens, cobalt greens, Turquoise greens, purply blue-greens, ultramarine greens, party greens, warm brown greens, dark brown greens and black greens…

Hansel and Gretel.
July 2010

Some times you can be somewhere where everything seems so paintable and it can make you sick. Reminds me of the story of Hansel and Gretel when they came to the house that was entirely edible, but how much did they eat.

Phthalo Blue
June 2010

Won a bid on ebay for a heater, but we only realised much later, the heater was in the Northern Beaches which was a long drive, so we made a trip out from it. We got the heater and found a beach called Dee Why (a beautiful beach) and started painting there.

I found that Phthalo blue has to be the most saturated paint around, so don’t forget to put the lid on it when you go out unless you want black and blue hands. I kept getting this feeling because of where I was standing that there was always someone standing behind me and watching me and I’d turn around and there was no one there, it must of been from shadows that lingered after the people walked away. Also its funny to see that when one person does stand and watch you, it makes more people stand and watch and so forth until it gets creepy and you have to break it up to introduce yourself.

June 2010

​At Westfield shopping centre Bondi Junction. Painted on the top floor. Looking down. I always loved this idea of painting around such an environment because of the advertisements of giant people in sunglasses, and women in poses. After about 25 mins was approached by the security guards, it was so obvious to them that I wasn’t permitted to paint there, “unless you have a special permit” so I had to pack up and leave. A few days later a guy committed suicide from that top level.

Only White Water

It was a rainy day and a windy day and I was feeling resistance to go out. I ended up at Bondi Beach. The place was empty and the water was only white from the wind. It was the type of wind that you can’t hear yourself speak in. I turned the car around opened the back door and painted facing out the back with legs getting wet. After a while the water was getting into the car, so painting had to be done through the windows. It was getting dark and the car wasn’t starting because it died on me. The NRMA came about 1/1/2 hours later. This was one of the first times finishing the painting there and then. When I got home the dinner was cold, the kids where asleep, but the night was young.

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