Paintings in Dialogue with Bruegel
PAINTINGS IN DIALOGUE WITH BRUEGEL - Kim Spooner
Pieter Brueghel the elder has been referred to by Artists, Poets and Film Makers in contemporary times. In my work I’ve been keen to maintain the thread of my own Art Practice so I have not utilised pastiche but rather used metaphors of my own Art and life experience. Prior to this Exhibition, I’d retreated from Exhibiting as frequently as I used to. Following a Residency in Paris, I spent a year intermittently travelling by train with my bicycle to a random selection of small country towns in NSW. My aim was to roam both personally and artistically and to view the intimacy of small communities as an outsider. I drew and painted en-plein-air scenes of misty winding roads, sheep, horses, stockmen, sheep-dog trials, country fairs and dances in community halls. As it turned out I was actually researching for this new direction in my work.
I had come upon the realisation that my interests lay in the foibles of human interaction and how I related to and enjoyed it. I realised that as an Artist I had always been an onlooker, attempting to explain the nature of humanity as I experienced it.
Many of the works in this Exhibition have been developed from sketches done in the field on my bicycle trips, as well as during my stay at a vast Wheat Property in Mungindi and also, near my home in Tempe, Sydney .*
Paintings in Dialogue with Bruegel
The Paintings in this Series fell into three categories as I developed the ideas from sketches – Parable Verses, Moral Tales and Views from my Journeys. All the work relates to the Master Bruegel, whose works depict scenes of Harvest, village life and landscape views.
.The Parable Verses are mostly represented in my small paintings and as a commonality I composed the works with metaphors from my own experience and in the format of an ellipse in a circle on a square. Often these Paintings make reference to my own heritage, for example: May as well be hung for a Sheep as a Lamb was devised by me in a way that referred both to Bruegel’s “Procession to Calvary” and my ancestry of Irish Australians who settled in “Ned Kelly country” just south of the NSW boarder in Beechworth. Others refer to the experience of being a painter in contemporary times, e.g. Swimming against the tide; The Sleeping Painter. There is no smoke without fire utilizes the metaphors of de Chirico’s metaphisica as well as of my own family history, as my son is a Firefighter with the NSW Firebrigade.
The small Suite of portraits in profile: Face of Harvest i-v represent the faces a few of the farm hands and itinerate workmen who were employed during Harvest, November 2011, on the world’s largest wheat farm in Mungindi NSW. I was extremely fortunate to enjoy the generosity of Ron and Jenny Greentree, not only did I witness the beauty of the Harvest but I was also given the opportunity to drive a Header. Ron’s hand is represented in the Parable Verse: Reap as we Sow.
The Moral Tales refer quite directly to Bruegel’s masterpieces and I have personalised them in a way to show the universality of the stories imparted. My Paintings: Indulgence drew inspiration from Bruegel’s “Sloth”; Covetousness from “Avarice”; Big fish eat little fish; The land of Cockaigne and The painter and the birdnester have direct relationships to Bruegel’s similarly titled works.
The Tower of Babel and The Peasant Dance are referencing Bruegel’s major paintings of the same name in a narrative as well as compositional way. The subject matter in these Paintings of mine make direct reference to my own Art Practice.
The Paintings which could be termed Views from my Journeys comprise scenes I encountered on my bicycle journeys to small towns throughout NSW. Included in this category is the sentimental and little lambs eat ivy - the subject being a reference to both a family of lambs living in a historic cemetery in Murrurundi and a playful, well known song my mother, who was a professional singer, sang. Parable of the Blind, which was the first completed Painting of this Series and was developed from sketches of magnificent Sheep in Murrurundi was an opportune encounter from which I drew a parallel with one of Bruegel’s last Paintings
* a selection of these sketches are available upon request