October 2011

Arts & Letters

Visual art (two-dimensional) masterpiece

By Anthony Bond

Brian Blanchflower - ‘Canopy LI (Scelsi I–IV)’, 2001

Brian Blanchflower is one of the most important painters in the world today and yet he is largely overlooked outside his native Perth. His paintings are firstly material objects, not illustrations of anything beyond themselves, and yet they have the power to invoke thoughts of transcendence. They convey the space and texture of the arid western desert and the canopy of the night sky. His paintings feel and look like the earth underfoot, but from a few metres back they transform into the sensation of infinite space.

These four paintings are made by laminating hessian to create stiff coarse supports. The roughness of the hessian causes the paint to build up unevenly, leaving glimpses through successive layers. This is very similar to the atmospheric effect produced by crusty dry underpainting in Monet’s late waterlilies at the Orangerie Museum. When you move around these paintings of Blanchflower’s, variations in the angle of light hitting the surface reveal structures and grids embedded deep in the coats of paint. Blanchflower applies his paint with large stiff brushes, stippling multiple layers of colour and mineralised paint suggesting geological accretion. This expression of the void in the earth, of being and nothingness, invokes the horizon where consciousness and materiality lightly touch.

—Anthony Bond

Brian Blanchflower, 'Canopy LI (Scelsi IV), oils, wax medium, pumice powder, acrylic on laminated hessian, January-May 2001, 221 x 172 cm. LEFT: Full painting. Right: Detail. Collection of the artist. © Brian Blanchflower. Photograph by Robert Frith.
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