George Kennedy and Harrison Bowe

The second iteration of Despard Gallery's annual "Young Bloods" exhibition showcases two distinct approaches to place and painting, from artists Harrison Bowe and George Kennedy.

Across George Kennedy’s Skyline Trespass, 2022, something topographical is happening. Shadow and light shift across the picture plane, as if tracing the ridges and gullies of a landscape seen at once from above and within – or even below. Where, we might wonder, are we in this painting? At the front of the field, a long line coils though the landscape, as if it’s taunting us to try and find a place to rest.

Kennedy, a graduate of the School for Creative Arts and Media, University of Tasmania, is one of two new artists presented in Young Bloods – and his approaches both to the “painter’s painting” of abstraction and to landscape demonstrate just the freshness and promise that the exhibition’s title supposes. His work responds to the in-betweenness that landscapes of certain kinds partake of – the outer edges of cities, environments on the brink, zones where the “natural” and the urban coalesce. In video material available at the gallery’s website, he’s shown with the remains of a car, burned out in bushland; it’s at once eerie, like a kind of warning, and, evidently, generative for the artist. His work is underpinned by travels around lutruwita (Tasmania) undertaken over the past few years, and time spent getting to know both its landscapes and its communities.

Kennedy’s painting also troubles the distinctions of genre, calling on a range of vocabularies from the gestural to the gleefully graphic. Across his canvasses spill organic forms, trippy and vibratory colours, the buzz and rhythm of repetitive patterning, as well as the restraint of geometrical abstraction. A viewer might get the sense that Kennedy is interested both in the structuring limits of paint and canvas, and in intelligently pushing against these limits in the same instant.

Harrison Bowe’s work, showing alongside Kennedy’s, opens into entirely different technical and art-historical vistas. Deliciously tactile, Bowe’s large-scale canvases call on much of what we’d recognise as a Romantic approach to painting landscape: they situate the viewer right along the sharp edges of ridges, or rolling down steep and rocky hillsides, and in some moments, in paintings like Pandanis under Double Peak, 2022, gestural strokes verge into the territory of pure, abstracted mark-making. 

Bowe’s work is also informed by travels through the landscape of Tasmania, often documenting a place from multiple perspectives with a camera. Many of the artist’s titles refer to ways of moving along and with the landscape – ascending, rising, waking – or they might name some feeling shared between the painter and the landscape. Perhaps the most touching example of this is Solitary Amongst Friends, 2021. This is to say that there is a sense of both deep familiarity and wonder to these paintings, and of a certain kind of humility before the natural world. So too might these senses be felt before Bowe’s  media of enamel and beeswax themselves, which are handled in these works as pliable and responsive substances. Making with beeswax, indeed, it’s clear that Bowe is not just painting “of,” but painting “with” the world beyond the human.

Together, the two artists demonstrate the truly multitudinous experiences of landscape available to artists (and, that’s also of course to say, to people) in Tasmania. An exciting look at two of Despard’s newest exhibitors, this show hints at a wide range of possibilities for both artists, for the gallery, and for painting in Tasmania. 

Young Bloods
22 June – 16 July 2022
Despard Gallery, Hobart

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