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Artist Statement 23
Painting is not about trying to make things that look good.
Why I paint has to do with everything that goes on in the psychology of action and potential.
Having guts, understanding when you should have pulled back.
Wanting more, wanting less.
Battling with the reality of the sunken cost, the unidirectional nature.
Anticipation, regret, unexpected surprise.
Self-worth, confidence, failing, completeness, acceptance.
Honing in on a platonic dream.
The closest possible interplay with materiality.
This is the medium in which I best experience these things.
One day I learnt too much
now I always walk this line in my mind
On one side, permanence of the object, truth, art.
On the other side, nihilism and meaninglessness.
In my nature I face towards the light, aware of the claws behind.
Each an antidote to the other.
Standing in a driveway mixing mortar for a 60 year old sandstone wall when I hear a piecing raw and rumble approaching like the world was about to end, within moments I see five silvery jets in the formation of an arrowhead shoot past overhead and within seconds pass out of sight to the horizon. Multiple shivers down my spine.
Equanimity of the canvas.
On the canvas everything is relational.
A tiny dot has the power to change the whole work.
No matter how successful the part is, it can still be at odds with the whole,
which can put its value into question.
A visual artist is a presenter of a whole instantaneously, so has to contend with the issue of totality.
All art is about this thing called rhythm.
It’s not the rational, enhanced mind that grants more success.
The exhausted, anxious, raging mind is no imposition to an execution of a blessèd act.
It is not about the knack for what looks good.
Visuals are the most superficial.
It is the sensibility that comes before and after.
About the tangible, the feeling about what there is.
Even after the work is complete it is not about its completion,
it's about the potential, it is always about the potential.
One inspiration that planted a certain emotion in me at a young age and has never entirely left, was from the 1960s movie The Time Machine of H. G. Wells. It was the story of a man, who locked himself away and through invention was able to transcend his present reality with a mechanism that worked but is never explained. This gave me the notion that by pure thought and obsession a person who locked himself away from the world was able to venture and access something that was not in plain sight. It is this childish and naive sense that I think still drives me, a kind of internal adventure.
I am very drawn to art antiquities, which is a broad term and spans centuries, but I am drawn to most of it, from Asia to the West Indies. I find the works of art in history museums the most sublime, even disregarding their provenance and just considering them visually, the patina, the texture, the colour tones. Recently I saw at the National Gallery of Australia, historical Indonesian and Thai ceremonial clothes that made a lasting impression on my mind. I sense something qualitatively different in these works of art, the inherent sense of the devotion in the process and the form.
Application of visions-
The more you want, the more you loose
The more you try, the more you want.
No Returns - Just when you try to intentionally unlearn and realize you have,
it’s already too late, you have only just learnt what you have unlearnt.
In my works I try to construct a conversation of movements as to what seeks to leave the canvas and what seeks to settle inside of it, who is traveling left, who is traveling right.
I do this to create a sense of movement, that weaves in and out, having things flow in an opposite and but altogether have balanced motion.
Taking its time.
Don’t want to know it now, just having seen it.
Want to spend a long time knowing it.
It may be shy or bold, it could take one year to come to that.
Ask you questions which it only tries to answer.
I want the painting to be passive.
In that what I mostly notice is the worst part.
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 and stepping into the act where time and place become palpable.
Painting outside is uncomfortable whilst coupled with euphoria. The approach of painting from life feels wholesome it imparts a sense of opportunity which makes me feel i’m just at the beginning.
Opening speech for 2018 Exhibition.
By JOHN CRUTHERS.
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.
Where there's light there's shadow,
there's shadow in the light
and light in the shadow.
#painting from #life.
I like to go for walks to see how many lives are possible.
Hole in the Fence:
Making art is about searching, about looking for a translative moment, a hole in the fence,
about trying to stand close to the fastest and dirtiest train the world has ever known.
Art Statment 2020
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.
Art is the meeting place of sensitivity and aggression
My paintings are those that sit on a delicate fulcrum.
Painting: Living with the choices you made
Awake: When you're awake in the middle of the night go to your window,
stop and listen to soft sound of sirens.
Rushing to the plane
Im boarding now,
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.
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.
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, often they don’t.
All music is about death.
Shake the can until it turns cold then press very gently
and let little specks shoot out to create for yourself a globular cluster.
Here: A need for details, is a sickness and self imposed curse.
With no regard for the bigger picture.
Best time to write a song is when you are already running late to a meeting,
or just after touch down when the cabin doors open, just when everyone stands up..
In music and art and everything,
every sound and mark and everything
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 lady whispers, good luck..
One can learn all temperaments and good character traits from jazz solos.
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..
“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 still.
When I was young I used to get this feeling,
and only sometimes I have it now but rarely.
It is having a feeling for the place, not to far away from you
And in that moment it is like magic when you got it.
I remember being in school looking out the window of my class room
and seeing the tops of trees in the park across the road,
I would feel what it was like to be there and then, without being there.
At night in bed, I could sense it in the empty back streets around my neighbourhood.
I could feel what it was like out there in the night air of the streets.
I didn’t need to be there just to know that it was there.
I felt that in many places I’d go, this sense of feeling alive.
There is something complicated
but simple and beautiful about knots.
I have a dream:
That a Chinese emperor came crying to me.
They say there's 100 billion galaxies with 100 billion stars in each one.
Im lost trying to find a headstone that needs new gold,
in some forgotten corner of the cemetery for a deadman.
Seeing is so entwined with knowledge,
what you see is what you understand.
This way round.
If you don’t know, you don’t see.
Aldous Huxley understood this and he explains it well.
Some people saw more than others imagine.
We are expected to be paradoxical.
Painting is about not being stingy to yourself.
Never lose sight of
the vision of your
blood in the bath
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.
Feel like sighing a thousand times to cats and moons.
Living in a world of words and people,
going faster than they have ever been before.
If you paint>
If you paint the trees before the skies
or the sky before the trees, there is a huge difference.
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.
Making art is about the actions of ideas becoming the ideas of actions
and a play or a march is the other way around.
Patience is not a virtue.
Unless love loves you it doesn’t feel like love.
The feeling of what the night will be is more important than what the night will become.
This world like the night before.
The next, like the morning after.
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.
How do I look at the art of somebody, u cant stand.
This person may have done terrible acts, but has made a great work 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.
“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)
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 regardless of what it is, says to you, try to remember to see things differently of your self in the world.
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
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, as they can appear to be like a 500 year old mushroom. They are all set in a pattern known as the English Bond.
I never have seen so much art in my life.
There is something about Gauguin colours.
There is nothing overrated about Van Gogh.
Feeling young looking at Dali.
Miro’s green is good. My shoes remind me of Miro.
Loved Rousseau and Renoir.
Uncertain about Oscar Kokoschka
Something about Cezanne’s card players.
I can’t remember what that was now.
From The Inside.
Something creepy about being a tourist. It does not feel right to look, walk an act as a tourist. It is so mindless to stare like a tourist, you have to give back, paint it like your seeing 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 haphazardly.
Puking, suddenly in an English garden.
Hard, in an English toilet.
Under pressure in a British airport,
again on the plane.
In the Spanish airport.
In the lobby of hotel Condado,
and again in the hotel room.
Finding it hard to sleep in Barcelona.
I don’t speak Spanish anymore.
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 we forget and forget this over and over again.
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 say in our car, we travel through the distance of whole houses in seconds, we traverse space so quickly, it totally defies the importance and preciousness of any given space
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 all the ay at the back of a side wall I saw an image which was intriguing to me. From the blurriness of distance I saw a 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 above. I told my wife 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 and suddenly I was looking at a generic print of a rose...
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.
Wedding after seeing a quote from hitler: ”Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and fields blue ought to be sterilized”.
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.
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.
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…
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 could they eat.
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.
At the Westfield shopping centre in the 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 the 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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