Garry Currin: Atoms and Opinions (2019)
“The two landscapes ran into each other and made a new countryside altogether (not pretty, but desolate, beautiful and timeless).” (1)
The title of Garry Currin’s new exhibition, Atoms and Opinions, alludes to the way in which all experience is simultaneously founded upon immutable facts and coloured by infinitely changeable perspectives. The artist’s paintings encapsulate a perfectly poised tension between their internal architecture of painterly gesture, tone, and composition, and the shifting and subjective sensory impressions of viewers.
Movement is an integral part of Garry Currin’s paintings and his gestural sweeps of paint are accompanied by controlled elements that act as visual cues to reading the works’ internal structures. In The Lightning Speed of the Past I the centre of the image is dominated by blocks and vertical lines that tumble down the painting to a seemingly bottomless foreground. Vivid juxtapositions of light and dark spaces increase the sense of collapse and strong diagonals draw the viewer inwards . As a counterpoint to this tense energy, the relatively empty space at the top of the canvas is an area of visual respite where a flowing pencil line acts as a meditative marker.
The large unstretched canvas that is the centrepiece of Atoms and Opinions also utilises strong compositional elements to create a visual and emotive experience of increasing disquiet. In The Light of One Day: Untitled Approach Currin inverts the expectation that objects closer to the viewer will possess more clarity. The work is divided into three distinct grounds and Currin directs the viewer’s initial attention to the background by providing a number of visual tropes that invite the identification of the painting as a landscape: a distant horizon, cloud-forms, headlands, roads. In contrast to this, the foreground of the canvas is filled with a dense, darkened form that defies immediate categorisation; the eye easily slides past this to the light, open space of the familiar.
As the viewer’s perspective moves back through the mid- and foreground however, recognisable features start to blur and flicker and there is no longer surety about what is being seen. The painter’s use of a limited tonal spectrum adds to the sense of a foreign (un)familiarity as does the constant shifting of light as external conditions change. The canvas becomes a space that is in constant flux, unsettling the viewer and requiring them to inscribe their own thoughts onto the work.
Garry Currin’s works reveal as much about interior mindscapes as they do about exterior landscapes. It is this unnerving, introspective beauty that holds the attention and settles under the skin.
1. Margaret Mahy, from Mainland: An Anthology of Southern Writing, quoted in artist’s statement, 2019.