Over the course of their art practices, Brent Harris and John Meade have each worked to develop an idiosyncratic visual language that resists the linguistic framing of much artistic practice. The artists’ work is not embedded in rote learnt cultural theory – rather, it speaks with a knowing, reflexive quality expressed through graphic forms, historical quotation and a twisting of how we read and apprehend the visual in the everyday. The forms of their work and the materiality of their paintings, prints and sculptures combine and mount to create a coded set of cues that one can apprehensively decipher yet never determinedly pin down.
This visual, graphic and formal language has an acuity; one whereby the edges of their work take on a quality of glyph-like articulation, so specific in their composition and arrangement that they appear to form a curious syntax. It is a language we may not know but we apprehend; a language that constitutes a perversion to dominant forms of interpretation, allowing the subjective and sensual to encroach on the way we construe phenomena. Brent and John take the quotidian and seemingly benign referents of the domestic, of design, of art and composition, and amplify certain qualities that are latent in the forms of these things. A man’s leg, the bonnet of a car, the rotund shape of a breast or stomach, the shaggy wig-like quality of a stool or the drape of hair as a figure emerges from a pool. These moments and features are drawn out by the artists, reduced to areas of colour and defining lines that act to amplify their sensuality. In the process, a kind of pleasure is elicited for the viewer through an identification with the twist in these new forms as they encounter the luxurious quality of the surfaces and objects that constitute their artworks. Everyday phenomena and domestic realities get stirred up, as John and Brent’s ability to summon images from their everyday repertoire into a play of codes that form a lexicon read through a type of feeling.
This pleasurable reverie takes on a bodily quality in the encounter: as an isness, an immediacy of presence, a strange enunciation of undercurrents pertaining to familiar things in our lives. It is this over/articulation that the two men share across their various sculptural and pictorial approaches. One whereby an attenuated curve descends dramatically, a human characteristic of an object is drawn to the fore, or a figure or object arches upwards to hold a curious detail that descends once more. This is a particular exaggeration, synonymous with certain aspects of nouveau, expressionism and Modernist design. Through the artists’ visual flourishes and refiguring a perversion of their original subject occurs. As Brent and John extract their forms from their contexts, they empty them of their canonical delineations to open them to something other, that is all at once humorous, knowing and at times troubling.
The pairing of these two artists for the first time at Neon Parc, draws their unique approaches to the visual, together. I see their taut yet embellished work as expressing a different way to write, a different way to interpret and speak through the real: a voice that has not been imposed from the outside or inherited through dominant structures. And whilst this way of creating curious language has a hermetic quality, their entrenchment in the visual and sensual quality of their subjective investigations opens their work up, allowing viewers to identify this drive in their own processes of interpretation. Brent and John allow us to apprehend and identify their delinquent and latent quality of everyday phenomena in a manner that simultaneously re-orients the languages and structures we might use to decipher them.
Jeremy Eaton is an artist and writer based in Melbourne. Jeremy is currently completing his Masters in Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows at West Space, Kings ARI, TCB art inc. and BUS Projects. Jeremy also undertook a residency at PICA in 2014, and took part in the Gertrude Contemporary and ArtAND Australia Emerging Writers Program in 2015.