Gow Langsford Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Wellington based painter John Walsh. Having worked with Walsh’s works for nearly two decades, I experienced the ‘penny drop’ moment during a recent studio visit. Having understood his works as figurative representations of fictional or mythological scenes I was awestruck to learn that his painting process is in fact very intuitive. The artist begins without a clear vision of the final composition. Working into a wet painted background, he begins with one element of the composition, usually a figure and then asks it and himself what that figure might be seeing, or sitting on, or thinking about. From here the composition reveals itself to him; it is as if he is inside the work, elevating each element of the composition in relation to the next. The nature of his technique dictates that he must work quickly and with confidence before surfaces dry. As such, although the works are ultimately figurative, they are underpinned by a very responsive and intuitive method, traits uncommon for representational painters.
This new body of work addresses the artist’s feeling of being complicit in the deterioration of the planet and the solace he finds in darkness. He writes:
Walking the pup late at night, he runs free. Not marauding out of control, he knows every cat in the hood and marks their territories, this is important to him, my mate. He chases if I’m not attentive and it has taken awhile but communication is subtle, not yelly or chatty, a clear ‘stay’, ‘let’s go’ allows us both to attend to the business of the night and there is lots of it. Mostly orchestrated by the environment... cats, the weather, that house... all triggering familiar but different walking narratives. The ruru, still here in Lyall Bay, sets the tone and all concerns weave in and out.
Participating in the ill treatment of our planet is inescapable. We have abused her every system to the brink of collapse. Within our time we will tip over the edge or forge a cultural shift to recovery. Living with this and what to do is numbingly difficult. Individual efforts are flummoxed by the actions and inactions of government and industry who are wedded to the broken systems that brought us here.
We breath and look elsewhere. The dark, twilight, that quiet magical space between realms is for me where hope, health and love are nurtured. It can be fleeting, but stay through a sunset, surrender to the slow mesmerising kaleidoscopic concert. It transforms beyond the embrace of our vision as we tumble into deepening darkness, eclipsing that hopeless reality with irrepressible eruptions, visions that excite imaginings galloping beyond the noise of progress, profit… but not the silent wailing of our betrayed mother.
The dark is my retreat. It calms and reloads me to come back and push against the tide, an insignificant twig quivering but, for our kids, still convinced we can turn the beast before that day.
This series of works not only reflects Walsh’s intuitive response to the increasingly depleted state of our earth but is also a cathartic experience of reprieve for him; forging through the darkness, trying to find the light.
- Anna Jackson, 2021