Central Western Daily

AT THE GALLERY: Legend still in the picture with Alan Sisley gallery


April 5, 2014, 4 a.m.

ALAN Sisley’s legacy as director of the Orange Regional Gallery is already evident in the current exhibitions at the gallery, all of which were instigated by him.

Under Alan’s direction, exhibition programs always balanced informative historical surveys with adventurous exhibitions introducing and showcasing the work of extremely talented artists, many of whom had not previously received the attention they deserved.

In gallery one, henceforth to be known as the Alan Sisley gallery, the space has been opened right up (after Alan’s memorial service), for the first time at a major exhibition, with all internal runner walls pushed out, maximising the space to house the survey of John R Walker’s remarkable landscapes: Terroir: Big Land Pictures.

As Andrew Sayers notes in his introductory essay in the accompanying online catalogue (http://issuu.com/utopiaartsydney/docs/orange_catalogue), Walker’s dramatic, almost cinematic landscapes evoke both visceral and cerebral responses from viewers.

Very few Australian art historians have tackled Australian art in toto. In Australian Art (Oxford University Press), Sayers was one of the few brave enough to do so, but he did not refer to Walker in that publication. However, in his newly published magnum opus, Australian Art: A History, Professor Sasha Grishin identifies Walker as one of the few artists to interpret potently the landscape vision of Fred Williams.

Although Walker may reference Williams, Streeton and Arthur Boyd, he has made his own mark with his unique and large-scale interpretations of Australian landscapes.

He deploys a remarkably sensitive and divergent art practice, with various degrees of abstraction, and in these multi-faceted works he demonstrates a real engagement with the natural colours and textures of the landscape, not to mention the human interventions that mark the land.

This is a special exhibition and the artist himself appeared staggered by what he had accomplished over many years, but had not seen displayed in such a wide-open space.

Walker’s art is not at all about discrete marks – he explores the deep meaning of terroir and his ideas are bold and inspirational.

Although Grishin was in Orange to open Peter Boggs’s exhibition last weekend, I caught him secretly viewing Walker’s work in the adjacent gallery and wondered what he thought….