In To The Distance

un homme qui pense (a man who thinks)

Geoffrey de Groen lives alone on a hill overlooking a very small town in the southern highlands not far from Goulburn. He moved there about fifteen years ago to escape the life he had been living as a painter and a teacher in Sydney. The artist had concluded that the vagaries and the politics of the art world and the pace of life in the city were not in the best interests of either his art or his life - in his case two things that are essentially one and the same. Therefore when I visited some months ago, I was expecting to re-acquaint myself with a recluse whom I had met briefly in the early nineties. However, de Groen, like his art is a man of surprises and contrasts. He indeed currently lives a solitary existence but when Wally Caruana and I arrived at his house some months ago, an individual who might almost be described as extroverted met us. Following our initial greeting, I had the feeling that he had just seen off a previous party of visitors. He was welcoming and engaging, full of life and ready to talk on a variety of subjects.
What are most apparent when I went in the house, in addition to the art on the walls, were the groaning bookshelves. The subject matter ranged from art history and criticism, philosophy of various persuasions through to contemporary Japanese novels. By the time we finished sharing a cup of coffee it was clear to me that I was indeed in the presence of what the French refer to as ?a man who thinks?. De Groen is a highly articulate and versatile conversationalist who also retains the gift of being a good listener ? he brings out ideas in others - perhaps a product of his long history of teaching.
There is a studio about twenty metres from the house and a large storage/exhibition area a walk down the hill near the town crossroads. We made our way first to the studio that contained some of the works on display in this exhibition in various states of completion. The effect for me was to enter into a kind of ?container? where the rules and regulations of the outside world had been displaced by another reality ? a reality created by the artist. As Cezanne discovered 150 years ago and more recently the sculptor Giacometti, great art takes it?s cue from nature but does not attempt to imitate it. Nature supplies a template but the artist creates a personal response where the rules, while consistent, are of the artist?s making.
When I questioned him about the influence of his natural surroundings, de Groen shared my enthusiasm for the clarity of light outside the studio windows, but clearly his painting is not about any surrounding views. They are more innerscape than landscape. These are paintings about the interaction of the act of painting with the interiority of the man. De Groen understands the past and knows he has already situated himself in the continuum of Australian painting. This is not however his primary goal. The real quarry of this artist is the mystery, the struggle and the triumph of painting itself. He understands that the most interesting artist he is going to meet is in fact himself and via this exploration he gives us permission through his work to know ourselves better.
We are very proud to be presenting the first exhibition in a commercial gallery in Sydney for a number of years of the paintings of Geoffrey de Groen. The show of primarily but not exclusively recent work has been timed to coincide with a retrospective exhibition at the Drill Hall Gallery in Canberra. I would like to thank Wally Caruana of Caruana Fine Art and of course Geoffrey de Groen himself for their support in making this exhibition possible.
? Bill Gregory, Sydney July 2011


In To The Distance
featuring new & recent works.
In conjunction with an exhibition to be held at the ANU's Drill Hall Gallery.

Opening Reception for the Artist - to be opened by Hendrik Kohlenberg
10 Aug - 1 Oct 2011

Exhibition features:

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Please note, works in previous exhibitions may no longer be available, please visit our stockroom for available works