The Castle

‘IT’S NOT A HOUSE. IT’S A HOME!’ declares Darryl Kerrigan in the classic Aussie film 'The Castle'.

In the group exhibition ‘The Castle’, staged at Thirroul’s Egg & Dart gallery, three artists present cross-generational ideas of home across themes of belonging, identity, status and security. Employing markedly different stylistic and conceptual vernaculars, Frank Nowlan, Rob Howe and Christopher Zanko spark conversations about the politics of housing – a topical subject at a time when Australian properties are among the world’s most expensive (Sydney recently ranking the second most unaffordable city in the world).

Rendering mundane observations with colloquial humour, Frank Nowlan approaches the humble home as a trove of personality. ‘These are mostly specific places in the Wollongong area; none are McMansions but are ordinary places that are treasured by the owners’, reflects the artist. Each building has a distinct personality, manifested in the nuances of their facades. In the monotone 777 House, we can imagine the grey linen-clad inhabitants, sipping Earl Grey tea silently in their spotless sitting room. Cross the street and you arrive at Barbara’s House, a rosey dwelling that conjures images of a softly-spoken matriarch assembling jonquils under the warm light of a salt rock lamp, sandalwood incense wafting in from the hallway. There is an honesty to Nowlan’s paintings that stands as a refreshing reminder of life’s simple gifts. The artist remarks, ‘Basically, I am exploring a place where people live – be it simple and mundane. Home is my place of comfort, where I am free to be myself and where I can interact and socialise with family and friends.’

Meanwhile, Rob Howe zooms out from the singular abode and focuses his brush on the local community. In one painting, Evan, a man stands within the purple perimeter of his fence, looking slightly perplexed as he peers at us from below his thick-rimmed glasses. It feels as though we are a distant acquaintance standing on his porch, smiling awkwardly while we wait for his recognition. Walk down the road and you arrive at the local Op Shop, the ubiquitous red signage saliently sitting above a blurred figure in an equally ubiquitous High Vis vest – a scene we’ve all seen. Responding to specific places, Howe’s gestural application of oil and shapely blocks of colour create moments of abstraction within familiar streetscapes. The artist comments, ‘I’m exploring areas of colour that work together; making shapes of colour. What I enjoy most about both making and looking at paintings is when I catch subconscious decisions struggling to come through.’ For Howe, the concept of ‘home’ is less about a place and more about – to quote The Castle again – ‘the vibe of the thing’. He reflects, ‘I’m one of those people for whom home is more of a sense or feeling as opposed to any specific location or building. I’ve felt it even in places I have visited only fleetingly, and it’s a feeling of warmth and knowing. A sense of community strengthens this feeling.’

Working with acrylic on wood relief carving, Christopher Zanko expresses the geometry of the mundane and the aesthetic power of positive and negative space. He says, ‘In my works I explore the way the Australian sun falls on older houses in our suburbs. I use relief printing techniques to contrast carved texture and pattern, against dominating planar shapes. The work is often determined by the composition of the shadow and its effect on the structure’s appearance.’ Depicting places he has passed in his daily travels, locally and nationally, Zanko’s stylised paintings represent a more objective perception of ‘home’ – a lovely contrast to Nowlan’s highly subjective renditions. ‘Home for me connotes a sense of belonging, familiarity or safety. I try to allude to that notion through abstracting the legibility of the structure of a home or building with the use of shadow in my work’, says the artist. Pattern, shadow, colour and form come together in a visual union that reveals the dynamism of the everyday.

The Castle
9 May – 2 June, 2018
The Egg & Dart, Thirroul NSW

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