David Hawkes

Three decades of paintings from the colourful oeuvre of Australian artist David Hawkes, presented at Campbelltown Arts Centre, charts the artist’s ongoing, intimate response to the landscape of Western Sydney.

Presenting works from significant periods of his career along with new paintings, the exhibition reveals the nuanced and abstracted ways Hawkes has interpreted the landscape around his home and studio in Wedderburn, on the edge of Sydney. The works map his curiosity in pushing the ever-evolving boundaries of abstract landscape painting. While the past thirty years has seen shifts in mediums and formats – from large paintings using industrial pigments, to works in oil, then acrylic – Hawkes has consistently examined Australia’s bushland. In his new works, the artist plays with Morse code, colour and repetition to create symbolic homages to the vibrant artist community at Wedderburn. The painting Liz Cummings (2017) evokes an aerial view of bush and sea as earthy umbers meld with cobalt blue beneath a tapestry of truncated lines, while another canvas references the late John Peart; its undulating ruby ground overlaid with an abstracted binary code of yellow dots and blue lines. In Roy Jackson (2017), a horizontal figure hovers in the top half of the canvas above a pixelated field of blue, beckoning us into his ambiguous realm, yet as we edge closer he vanishes into a landscape of vertical lines – a poetic tribute to this late great Australian painter.

Hawkes found art in his late teens, and in 1980 he was awarded a scholarship that allowed him to travel to New York and work there for a year. Here he immersed himself in the local art and music culture and set up his own studio in the lower East Side, producing a series of figurative sculptures and paintings. He then returned to Sydney and helped establish an artist run studio, where he worked with visual and performing artists. Hawkes’ practice took on a whole new meaning after he moved to Wedderburn in 1989, where the dynamism of the surrounding natural environment and wealth of local talent was a fount of inspiration. ‘I love sitting down quietly and looking into the bush’ reflects Hawkes, ‘Your eye explores passageways through the leaves, branches and trunks. You almost disappear into a vortex. I aim for a similar feeling of exploration in my paintings – looking in, rather than looking at’.

Looking In: A Survey of David Hawkes – 1989 to Now
16 June – 29 July 2018
Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney


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