Peter Powditch‘s exhition closes today (Wednesday, August 11) at Ray Hughes Gallery, and that’s probably a good thing. We went along to Ray Hughes Gallery with an open mind and a desire to be seen to be fair, but we were having trouble almost from the start.
We doubt that Ray Hughes has done anything to his gallery since it opened and, you know, why should he? Perhaps there are artists who like seeing their work illuminated by fluro lights or stuck in a corner or hung either side of what is essentially a thoroughfare, but we know we’re applying a weak-kneed, contemporary art sensibility to a gallery that has been cruising along for years without a worry in the world. The one thing that you consistently hear about the Ray Hughes Gallery is that Ray himself treats his artists very well and we respect him for that. But we know we are afraid in a way that we rarely are when we speak ill of Hughes’s artists…
So anyway,Peter Powditch‘s show; thirty five works spread around the gallery, each looking grey and flat under the house lights, scored with a palette knife and bubbling away with little nodules of paint, figures fading into the white, looking a little like trees or perhaps some form of Cubism hitherto unknown. The works are, to be blunt, awful, perhaps demonstrated by the fact that not one seemed to be sold. That isn’t the measure of success, of course, but Powditch makes such a long series of deliberate anti-aesthetic choices that you sense he’s a guy in a studio and to hell with the world.
This is what happens to many older Australian artists – they stick to styles of art that were marginal to begin with and, as time goes on, become less and less relevant. It isn’t necessarily the job of the artist to stay in step with the rest of the art world and there’s a certain heroism to soldier on, painting in a way that is less and less appreciated. There are perhaps a handful of older artists whose work speaks across the generations, are still vital and happening. But the majority are like Powditch, bit part players in the big picture of Australian art. No one doubts Powditch’s dedication – this show, if nothing else, is a demonstration of dogged determination – and perhaps in 50 or 100 years time the work will be reassessed and celebrated as a brave voice in the wilderness. But we seriously doubt it.
We congratulate Hughes on standing by his artist but this is a show so bad we wonder why on earth he decided to show it. We hope it was loyalty.
Joe Furlonger’s show out the back, Improvisations , is like being knocked over by a truck. Hung salon style in row after row of framed woodblock prints, the works are variations on the same South East Queensland generic landscapes, done in different colours and looking like a cross between hippy batik and bark collages.
Like Powditch’s show, the Furlonger prints seem completely out of time, adrift to fashion, but unlike his unfortunate stable mate, Furlonger still has plenty of gumption and a great eye for colour. The browns are so intense you can smell the fondue.