Luke Sciberras exhibition at the Olsen Irwin Gallery 63 Jersey Road has a real sense of presence and understanding of locality.
The works draw from recent artist residencies to Gallipoli, Bruny Island and Outback NSW. The exhibition entitled Human Condition reveals Sciberras masterful revaluation of landscape. Each of the landscapes Sciberras depicts has a deep sense of understanding and contemplation. His brushstrokes are thick and painterly creating dynamic expressions of form and depth.
Luke Sciberras, Up Shit Creek, Gallipoli 2014, oil on board, 160 x 240 cm, $34,000
Sciberras demonstrates a real pull to landscape in his works
“A sense of place, a feeling that can only really be understood and then expressed by spending extended periods of time in the landscape, for me that is, walking, sitting, painting, resting and keenly studying every nuance of every scene I encounter.” Luke Sciberras, 2012
Luke Sciberras, Bruny Island Study 2 2014, Gouache and pastel on paper, 50 x 70cm, $3,500
Luke kindly answered some questions to help unpack his strong sense of attachment to the landscape.
Artist Interview with Luke Sciberras
Q1) Many of the works in Human condition were completed during artist residencies, is changing your context something you believe is pivotal to expanding the range your work?
There’s a constant learning as I travel around to new places , either internationally or within the many and various landscapes in Australia , I am always faced with new subjects , and revisiting favourites . There’s a tone and palette , a history and a pulse to each place that is unique , and this character can only be expressed after a considerable amount of time is spent studying and reflecting , then , in time and in the studio there is an image made which hopefully resembles a remembered studied encapsulation of a place that I’ve loved, with it’s own resolved and entirely new presence .
Q2) Gallipoli is a sacred place for many Australians, how did the proximity to such a landmark of Australian identity affect your work?
Yes my journey around the Gallipoli peninsula accompanied by a group of other Australian painters and an historian from the Australian war memorial lifted me into an entirely new form of expression of the landscape .As I wrote in the catalogue essay , it is becoming more and more apparent to me that every place we visit has a layer of history patinaed into it, this was one of the most moving of all . There is a strangely complex arrangement there of Mediterranean , European , middle eastern and oddly Australian historical terrain which took some time to tune in to in a painterly way. The brief on having been invited on the trip was to make a body of work focusing on the landscape to form a body of works which now hang in the Australian National University and at the S H Ervin gallery, the thing was though almost none of the artists could wrest an image that was devoid of the human element there , the terror and toil that was embedded into those escarpments and also the immediate and enduring messages of peace expressed diplomatically between the Turkish and Australian people .
Q3) The works in your exhibition have a very raw and real quality to them, do you believe this is developed from a deeper understanding of landscape?
The raw quality in my work is I guess a direct reflection of the substance and actual characteristics of the landscapes I visit . I’m not interested in making anything but a direct expression with layers of paint of the travels and places I’ve learned . These images if only via the briefest remarks are assured by many and detailed studies I’ve made by immersing myself into the awe inspiring elements that overcome anyone who spends time in the bush . Weeks on end in the studio are only interrupted by new travels to harvest more and more of the raw materials I need to keep painting fresh and revisited subjects.
Q4) The ability to capture the Australian landscape has been a constant subject for artists. What do you believe is so captivating about it?
The thing about the Australian landscape is that it is so vast and so various , and so new! There are frontiers still being discovered and explored by so many people and each in their own way. There is no universal ‘Australian style ‘ of painting the landscape because I believe we are still exploring it , even the cutting edge of aboriginal painting is a blurry new and elastic medium finding its own way, at once ancient and contemporary .
The vast stretches of the Australian outback are deceptive in their uneventful appearance , only with time and at a walking pace can one see and perceive the endless subtlety and painterly material there is to be had and conversely I found a tremendous energy in the rolling green hills that plunge toward the bays that surround bruny island off Tasmania. There is almost a stinging pop element to using those colours which I enjoy immensely, though no less difficult to resolve.
Q5) How preconceived is your image when you start your works or is it something that develops as you layer your brushstrokes?
The whole thrill of painting is that you dance along a knife edge the whole time not knowing how a picture will end up looking, of course I refer to my notes and drawings , gouaches and sketches to score up the composition tone and flavour but after some time, over the weeks that it takes to finish these works, they get their own lift-off and my memory and eye become honed to resolving an image that is contained entirely within it’s own four sides and takes on it’s own organic energy. Then in time the work holds it’s own and tells me somehow when it’s finished, beyond device or idea I can apply.
Q6) Would there be any advice you would give to young artist starting out?
The only advice I could give to a young artist starting out is paint more and above all, draw. Remember that what people respond to most is an authentic original mark which is something you can’t think up , so do it by feel , and often!
Luke Sciberras: Human Condition is on display at the Main Olsen Irwin Gallery Jersey Road until the 31st of May