Art Life walking tour part three

Art Life Jul 05, 2010 5 Comments

Ian Shadwell continues his walking tour of hidden art – and confesses a weakness for large scale abstract paintings, such as a particularly fine example by Caio Fonesca at Aurora Place…

As we continue our pleasant stroll around the cities CBD looking at what there is on offer in the way of public art, we might decide to wander up the hill from our viewing of the Flugelman piece at Spring street, to Aurora Place on Phillip street.

This of course is the “world class” building by Renzo Piano. A nice enough tower as towers go, but to my mind not in the same league as some of the buildings by our very own Harry Siedler. Such jingoistic thoughts aside, and you can take a moment to wander around the forecourt and admire the sculpture, Touchstones by Kan Yasuda, two lovely pieces of marble, very much in the tradition of Brancusi’s minimalist Modernism. But for those of you who love acres of canvas and a bit of high brow interior decoration, step inside the foyer and check out the Caio Fonesca work.

We all have weaknesses. Mine is for large scale abstract painting. It stems from a tragically romantic attachment to the great figures of the New York school developed during a period of drug experimentation in the Rothko room at the Tate. An attachment that, if anything, has become more intense with the passing of time. I long for the purity of those voyagers of the sublime with their deep commitment to art writ large as ART. Don’t bother me with stories of the politics behind New York’s elevation to world capital and the American need to assert its cultural hegemony during the Cold War. Just give me acres of canvas, litres of pigment and some painterly affectation.

And as far as big painting goes, the one in the foyer is a corker.

Its an untitled work by Fonseca. He’s not anyone I know a great deal about, as there’s not much back story to know. Just a man who likes to paint. A quick Google, yields a number of juicy tidbits, principally that he has been collected by most of the major American institutions including The Whitney and MOMA and that he is a member of an extraordinarily wealthy family, that have assured his security and the opportunity to devote himself to his metier, either in his whole floor studio space in Manhattan or the North Italian studio he retreats to every year to work. He is not the only artist in his family. His father Gonzalo Fonseca was a well respected sculptor, whilst his brother (now deceased) was a painter of surreal, mural sized works of political and social commentary. So, assured that his pedigree is good, we can feel comfortable in liking his work, though there are many I’m sure that would accuse it of being nothing more than boardroom art. But, phooey to them and their standards.

Painting at this scale is difficult, yet this work seems effortless, with its various elements awkward, in and of themselves, yet poised in a composition that seems part choreography, part geometry. Curves and angles are echoed in scaled dynamics, that play on the figure ground relation, as white background and red forms flip, flop. Smaller orange pieces work like notes on a stave, highlighting points of tension and release in the composition. The paint itself, is thin, yet heavily worked, textured here and there with lines and thread. As a whole the piece has a loose, painterly aspect balanced by the rigour of its composition.

The painting seems to offer references to the harbour – with the curved forms of waterways and the angular jutting piers of a working harbor, though Caio himself suggests his paintings are works that deal with internal states and the problems of the medium itself. Perhaps that’s why his compositions are so pleasing, complex, nuanced and refined, yet with glimpses of humor and a bold, striking first impression. This is a painting that expresses itself with the “musicality” of genuinely abstract form, seeking ideas and (ahem) feelings, beyond words. Hence, I’ll stop spoiling the experience and let you get on with looking.

Next, we’ll have a look at some of the Siedler building forecourts and foyers and the crazy good stuff they have there.

Andrew Frost


  1. Sweetners

    I’d always thought that Fonseca painting was a Peter Atkins.

  2. suzanne

    I have always lived the hit of vibrant colour this work gives you when passing down George St.

  3. suzanne

    Mistake, mistake, whats the one in George St ?

  4. frank stella in grosvenor place foyer maybe?

  5. suzanne

    That’s the one. Grosvenor Place. Thanks.

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