Rick Amor

This month Rick Amor is exhibiting his work at Philip Bacon Galleries in Brisbane. This is a great chance for sun soaked Queenslanders to take a step inside the hallowed commercial gallery and be transported to the evocative world of one of the country’s most prominent figurative painters. Although you will find your fair share of shadows and brood in the work, Amor is able to transcend the initial quietness found in his paintings and transfix the viewer with gorgeously light-infused and structural representations of the world we live in. Amor is able to masterfully manipulate light in his works, often offset by a dark physical presence or structure.

With his skilful representations of artist’s zones that have captivated him enough to want to portray them, his works are loaded with intent. The artist has an unrivalled understanding of tonality; his warm palette allows him to set up narratives and dark, forbidding skies that set a complex psychological pattern to each work. Within each painting he works hard to create an interesting composition that pushes himself and the viewer. These images are never immediate – but like all good artists the works reveal themselves over time.

Born in 1948 in Frankston, Victoria, Amor has been inspired by the Australian landscape and particularly urban images, most often in his home town of Melbourne. What is noticeable and most probably a differentiating point that makes his work look individual as opposed to that of the other great Australian urban painter Jeffrey Smart, is that Amor’s work has the feel of American toughness to it – it leans more to the ‘Ashcan’ school of Eakins or Bellows, rather than Smart’s Italian influences or the stillness of a Piero Della Francesca.

Distinctly American imagery crops up in Amor’s work regularly, which are remnants of Western industrialisation. Having worked in New York, scenes of the city frequently appear in his oeuvre as a reverent tip of the hat to the influence of quiet figurative American painters like Harvey Dinnerstein. It’s just like the devotion Amor has to the suburban and urban backstreets of Melbourne which he regularly frequents. Like his influences Amor paints with instinct. He has foregone the fanciful trends since he first showed in 1974 and has remained committed as a proponent of figuration with a sense of ‘soul’. These works are more than a documentation of an area; they speak of human reflection, presence and a soulful encapsulation of those untraceable moments that make up a life.

In ‘Memory of a Grounded Ship’, we are not looking at a representation of the half-sunken Costa Concordia – it’s rather a half-forgotten memory – an image that’s stuck in the artist’s mind’s eye. The subtle echoes of the ship’s destructive line of angle is cruelly mimicked by the angle of a nearby cloud. Within the picture’s mid-plane sits a gorgeous golden yellow light spot which is one of the standout elements of Amor’s practice. These insightful highlights find the soulful entry points into memory. The dark angular tree punches out the cool cloud and contrasts that bright small patch of light. It all seems so simple and easy to relate in words or as a concept but as a painter, you try juggling these tricky relationships with the same authority – it isn’t easy.

Even in his smaller studies, which are a little rougher in application, Amor is still able to capture strange, sublime moods. He doesn’t choose the obvious viewpoints or standard compositions someone of lesser skills would typically adopt. In ‘Study for Behind the Nightclub’, he picks a simple view of a back lane but transforms its familiarity with an irregular geometrical form of smokestacks and pipes by using the simplicity of a creamy white sky. The fact that Amor considers the studies as important images in themselves, displays the effort and time that goes into constructing a purposeful work of art.

Amor has had a respected career; he has been the recipient of several Australia Council studio residences working in Barcelona and New York, and in 1999 he was appointed the official Australian artist with the peacekeeping troops in East Timor, by the Australian War Memorial. He has held well over 40 solo shows with a number of surveys and publications devoted to his work.

This is a wonderful opportunity for Brisbane audiences to experience the quality of paint firsthand and see what this master craftsmen has committed his life to – representing the modern world with experiential wisdom and not the hype.

New Works
Until 22 November, 2014
Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

Courtesy the artist and Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

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