"Some people seem to talk a lot about "minimal" but I see and experience it in the opposite way, as a great synthesis and truly "maximal" - Bob Brighton, 1996

"He (Bob Brighton) is the only great artist I have ever met" - Brian Blanchflower, Perth 2003

The above quote is high praise indeed coming from Brian Blanchflower, an artist renowned in Australia for the integrity of his vision and the quality of his work. I am writing this with a painting from the upcoming exhibition of Bob Brighton propped up next to me. It is a small painting measuring 26 x 26 cm. It is divided up by hand into 900 one by one cm adjoining squares, 30 squares per side. Each square has been hand painted in a colour which appears to repeat itself often albeit in sometimes different shades. There is the faint trace of pencil here and there underneath where the artist has drawn up the grid before beginning to apply paint. The sides of the painting are white and depending on one?s angle of vision present as a white line of varying thickness along the edges.

Turning the painting around, even the back is worthy of the word artwork as the title numbers, ?360? in this case, are painted in a fluorescent orange on a black tache of paint and the year 2004 also in orange on a black tache below with the signature in between. There are 16 rivets holding the canvas and two keys per corner to adjust tension. The effect of turning the painting back to it?s painting surface is to see the work as an object. Every part, including the construction of the stretcher, the flax canvas, the paint and even the rivets somehow indivisible from the whole. There is something organic, even tribal about the obvious ritual undergone by the artist to produce such a thing.

Back to the painting itself. The basic colours include two distinct shades of opposing orange, several pinks, shades of grey and what appear to be some burgundy/browns. If I shift the painting slightly in my hands everything changes. The browns are now bright gold, some of the pinks are clearly blue while shades of pink which seemed close in value in one light are now clearly and unequivocally green. The more fluorescent colours under one light are now matt in texture and the matt colours are shining like diamonds. Clearly this is an artist who understands the power of relations in colour - how it changes according to what is next to it, the light and the angle from which it is viewed.

BOB BRIGHTON has described himself as a colourist. Although certainly comparable to the great colour theorist Johannes Itten in the depth of his investigations into the subject there is a primary difference. Itten believed that colour would always be the most crucial element in painting. Brighton?s quarry is an evolving understanding that all aspects of life can be expressed in terms of colour and that understanding the laws of colour is a pathway to understanding all things. The art and the man are practically indivisible. Where the paintings stop and the man and his life start is blurry at best. His life and his work are the same thing. There is no extensive cv to exhibit here - he has had only eleven solo exhibitions (four of them in Australia) since 1983 and is now sixty-seven years of age. Critical acclaim and acceptance in the Uk art world (he lives and works in Brighton, England) have so far largely eluded him. He has never been insecure about this fact as he is well aware of his own worth and ultimate contribution. He started out looking for something simple in his life and art but somewhere along the way the project has become bigger than the paintings. In his own words; ? the enterprise is bigger than the path - I am saying something new.? He is unconcerned about money and lives simply in a council flat which doubles as his studio. That is not to say that he is unconcerned about value and understands that the monetary value put on a work of his art reflects how they are perceived. However, what artist would donate the proceeds from this exhibition to the heart unit where he was treated some years ago? His central concern at the this stage of his life is what I shall call his living work of art, a permanent exhibition of his past work which has been donated by himself or purchased by donors to institutions like hospitals, town halls, regional galleries and the like for contemporary and future generations to learn from and enjoy.

Paradoxically, this rigorous work strikes a chord in the new century. Post modernism has turned out to be just another period and multi culturism a curatorial premise. There is a need, indeed a demand for stronger substance by the viewing public. People want art that is capable of touching them spiritually and emotionally, not simply ideas presented in a visual format to ironically underscore the failings of society. The path of abstraction has veered sharply in the work of many artists (Cathy Blanchfllower and Lesley Dumbrell come to mind) who use their ?systems? to evaluate and articulate for us what is precious about life - to put the hustle and bustle into some kind of perspective, to lengthen rather than shorten our attention spans, to ask us to be introspective and contribute through our responses - not simply look on, often glumly and unsure of ourselves from the sidelines. Bob Brighton challenges us to use our eyes to see his art and open up our other senses, to consider change in our perspective and contribute something to the world. These new paintings are among the finest I have ever experienced.

- Bill Gregory Sydney June 2004


21 July - 21 August 2004

Exhibition features:

« back to previous page

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