IN an age of unceasing experiment it’s not easy to find first-class figurative art but a new exhibition at M16 Artspace, “Figurative Visions”, showcases three Canberra artists, Rick Cochrane, Chan Dissanyake and Roger Beale, each working in different mediums but with a commitment to representation.
For the larger part, Beale’s works are executed in the medium of pastel, allowing exceptional depth and subtlety in both his urban and rural landscapes. The smoggy, almost monotone atmosphere of “Bangkok Tollway”, 2015, is relieved by delicate touches of red on a passing tail-light. In complete contrast, his impression “Sicily, central landscape”, 2015, is grand and expansive.
A large self portrait, “Man, 70”, 2015 is executed in charcoal and water colour ink, while with the only oil in the exhibition, “Florence, the deluge”, 2017, he works tantalisingly with light.
Dissanyake’s selection of works, entirely comprised of watercolour on paper, reveals masterly impressions of scenes not far from home, one in the Namadgi National Park and one on the way to Thredbo in full snow.
Dissanyake is an acknowledged master of scenes involving impressions of light on water, and the sense of wetness and heavy rain is palpable in his views of Flinders Square, Melbourne and Lismore, NSW. The atmosphere of a misty morning in Doongara, NSW, creates a sense of anticipation of what lies beneath.
Cochrane, who has subtitled his exhibited work into four themes – Tempest, Attitude, Retro and Jazz – is possibly best known for his print-making, but in this exhibition it is the dramatic impressions of a passing storm at Red Rock Gorge that immediately catches the eye. One of these, “Tempest vi”, is startling in its use of tempestuous flashes of colour, but it is hung next to a triptych subtitled “Tempest vii”, where the storm seems to have subsided into a kind of subdued grandeur.
Elsewhere his “Retro” drypoint monoprints on cotton rag focuses on fast girls and fast cars/bikes. One of these, “Brave girl”, is unexpectedly rendered in oil on canvas. The scope of Cochrane’s art is confirmed in his series of striking works on paper laying bare the muscles and skeletal structures of human body. No wonder such works, like “Two girls”, have inspired a flattering comparison by one M 16 board member with the 20th century English artist, Francis Bacon.
Artists’ floor talks are as follows, 2pm, July 16, Rick Cochrane and Sunday, July 23, Chan Dissanyake.