Howard Taylor
Constructions Paintings Drawings Maquettes

Howard Taylor achieved near mythical status in Western Australia in his lifetime. Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald on the occasion of a previous Taylor exhibition at Annandale in 1999, the critic Bruce James observed that; ?like an indigenous elder, he?s consulted for his views and respected for his responses, however Gnostic. The art lover visiting Perth, anyone with more than passing interest in culture, really, will be faced reliably with the inquisition: have you been to see Howard yet?? Taylor and his art were the stick by which the rest of Western Australian art was measured.

Aspects of Taylor?s singular reputation, in addition to his work, may be partly due to his reclusive habits (in later years he rarely attended even his own openings) which earned him the title ?Forest Figure? in a monograph by Ted Snell and the romantic nature of the origins of his life as an artist which began with drawing in a POW camp in Europe. In any event, he managed to articulate through his work a pride of place for Western Australians like no other artist, allowing people to celebrate their origins and sense of place through the vast, unique landscape surrounding them. Taylor contributed a sense of cultural identity through his work that has been unsurpassed in Western Australia before or since.

The demand for the work of Taylor in WA meant that his work was rarely seen until recently in the Eastern states. The Annandale show in 1999 was only the second solo exhibition since 1978 and apart from art fairs and the critically acclaimed retrospective, ?Phenomena? curated by Gary Dufour at the Art Gallery of WA and travelling to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in 2003, opportunities to experience the work have been few and far between in Sydney. Doug & Magda Sheerer of Dusseldorf Galleries in Perth were long-time friends of Taylor up until his passing in 2001 and they represent the estate. The magnitude of Taylor?s reputation throughout Australia certainly would have allowed them to deal with all his work from the comfortable surroundings of their own gallery in Perth. However, their commitment to the legacy of this important artist and close friend led them to decide that this show should take place in Sydney or Melbourne. Therefore, it was with great pleasure that I received the call from Doug Sheerer offering Annandale the opportunity to mount this exhibition ? described by them as the last significant exhibition available from the estate for a commercial gallery. Howard Taylor?s indelible contribution to the continuum of art in Western Australia and his place in art history there has long since been assured but if there is a gap to fill it is perhaps to allow both those of us familiar with the work of this towering figure and those coming to it for the first time to experience the work in the Eastern states. We have not had enough opportunity here and this exhibition will hopefully go some way in correcting this imbalance.

This exhibition has works dated from the mid-seventies, although most date from the late eighties to the late nineties. It is fresh to the market, as much of it has never been seen outside of the studio. The show is not a retrospective or even a thematic survey and makes no claim to be comprehensive, but equally, it is a balanced show that touches upon most facets of Taylor?s oeuvre including magnificent examples of his sculpture, maquettes for sculpture, painting and drawing. Paintings in the exhibition such as ?Cloud? 1993 or ?Sky? 1999 have a minimalist feel to them that gives way under careful observation to a complex structure using universal proportions. They have an atmospheric, almost gaseous quality that invite deep contemplation and communicate a visual experience of nature that the artist spent a lifetime recording and understanding. There are certain currents that run like a river through his work and if the viewer achieves real intimacy with even a single piece, the door opens to his remarkable vision. Once one has pried open this container and created a space inside oneself from which to look and respond, the subtle variations in other works and the ideas and emotions from which they derive become more apparent. The viewer may grasp the work equally via the lively, spontaneous touch displayed in a tiny drawing or a monumental piece of sculpture.

Howard Taylor left value judgements to the viewer and it is crucial to understand that, similar to the South African artist William Kentridge who considers his etchings as integral a part of his work as his films, there is relatively little hierarchy in Taylor?s oeuvre. Whether pen and ink sketch or large format sculpture, Taylor leaves categories such as ?major? or ?transitional? to curators and art historians. After all, they are categories of our making - not his - and what interests him is communicating what he feels and what he has learned, rather than attempting to fit into any preconceived notions of our making. What concerns Taylor is articulating his experience of life and nature with others through his art. The key word here is sharing. Most life experiences are richer when shared with others. Most people do not ideally attend concerts or visit museums alone by choice unless they are studying something in particular. It is always a good bet that sharing the experience with someone else will also enhance it. In the case of a recluse like Taylor this meant sharing his vision from a distance by sending his paintings and sculptures out into the world. They are like his children. Art is not made in a vacuum and despite Taylor?s famous, almost hermit-like reputation he was wise enough to understand that art is something that needs an audience to complete it or even bring it into existence. It is our sincere hope that as many people as possible take advantage of this opportunity to experience the vision of this unique Australian artist. Those who take the time to do so will, I feel sure, be the richer for it.

I would like to thank Doug & Magda Sheerer and Sheila Taylor for the remarkable opportunity to have this key exhibition at Annandale Galleries. ? Bill Gregory, Sydney April 2008


Howard Taylor
Constructions Paintings Drawings Maquettes
14 May - 7 June 2008

Exhibition features:

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Please note, works in previous exhibitions may no longer be available, please visit our stockroom for available works