Nerve Bangle - David Palliser

The paintings in Nerve Bangle have a formalist’s love of the elemental beauty of picture making: a series of studies or explorations of the relationship between colour, line, shape, texture and the illusions depth and volume. They are experiments in perception that render the microscopic physics of sight in giant, simplified form.

Art Exhibition previously on at Anna Pappas Gallery in Victoria, Australia.
From Thursday 04 March 2010 to Saturday 10 April 2010
Launch Thursday 04 March 2010, 6pm

Summer Foam Hut image

Published by anonymous on Saturday 20 February 2010.
Contact the publisher.

But then they also have a definite character: a kind of tense, bubbly animation with an flair for design that resembles something much closer to home than the austere ideologies of formalism. They are, in other words, formal experiments made in a domestic setting, not a laboratory, with their aesthetic taken from everyday life. The imagery of the pictures will at different times recall a jumble of retro home-fittings and tupperware, or a decorator’s sample bag, or a fashion designers’ cutting table. These shallow spaces seem life-sized, approachable, even though they bend and intertwine illogically. Then the scale will shift due to a trick of colour and shape, and the same composition that looked like a collection of icecream flavours and ribbons will appear in a moment as a jostling tower of circus tents and rollercoasters, looming over you.

The engine that drives these transformations, and that prevents these paintings from containing anything other than fleeting resemblances to real objects, is their formal dynamism. Palliser has said that ‘(p)ainting is mass.’ In doing so he echoes down the line the principles of modernist painting developed by the post-Impressionists. That is, a painting is understood first and foremost as an empirical, phenomenal thing: at base, an arrangement of coloured pigment on a flat surface. And the formal dynamics are first and foremost the relationships built out of different coloured pigments. The fact that his imagery is never identifiable in its own right, endlessly returning to its real, material life as colour, is testament to fact that Palliser remains true to this insight.

Yet, even though the imagery is really operating like algebra in an equation, there is something fun about the formula – an almost childlike happiness with a serious abstractionist’s intent. This sense of fun, if you like, could be better thought of in terms of the works searching for a series of little shocks and surprises. And this in turn leads back to the way this series of paintings were made in the first place.

Improvisation is the practice of acting and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one’s immediate environment, inner feelings, as well as the transformations occurring in the object that is being improvised with. Using a mixture of intuition and technique, the improviser gives over planning and reflection to spontaneity. And the paintings in this exhibition are all ‘improvised’. That is, Palliser approached a set of blank white canvases without preparatory sketches and started improvising, splashing or dragging paint around.

Thanks to the thick layers of romantic and humanist clichés around artistic creativity, the overwhelming connotation that this kind of activity brings up is with the supposedly pure, unadulterated expression of artistic individuality. However, Palliser ’s improvising is more like the jazz he plays – instead of a sentimental outpouring, it’s a highly conscious game of shaping and producing raw material all in the same moment. While the distinction between what exactly is ‘producing’ and what is ‘shaping’ seems to dissolve at this level, the artist has to remain alert to the difference in case some potential harmonic moment might register itself in the more or less unpredictable cascade of little creative events. Over time, the paintings are assembled from working and reworking these events, which turn into new ones, all the while keeping the elusive form in mind. If you think of making a painting as a problem, then here Palliser’s solution has been to again and again assemble the happy sedimentation of stop-gap measures. +

About David Palliser

David Palliser was born in Melbourne in 1960, where he continues to live and work. He has an extensive exhibition history, presenting solo exhibitions at a number of local galleries including Michael Wardell Gallery, Temple Studio and Crossley and Scott over the past two decades, as well as at Kaliman Gallery in Sydney. He was included in the important ‘Imagine’ exhibition at the Heidi Museum of Modern Art in 2006, curated by Zara Stanhope, and his work is represented by major public and private collections in Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and the John McBride Collection.

The artist acknowledges the assistance of the Power Institute at the University of Sydney.

+Essay by Michael Ascroft