John Edwards has been exhibiting since 1984. He has been shortlisted three times for the AGNSW´s Archibald Prize, three times in the Sir John Sulman Prize, four times in the S.H. Ervin Galleries, Salon de refusés, twice in the Kilgour Art prize, three times in the Blake Prize, and most recently John was a finalist in the NSW Parliament Plein Air Art Prize, to name a few of his extended achievements.
My father met my mother when he was an Australian soldier based in Japan... in the early 1950s (and) then spent three years fighting with the Australian government to allow him to bring his Japanese bride to Australia. My mother never spoke fluent English. I always understood what she was saying though so, in a sense, communication often via the sensory and the unspoken word, probably had a huge impact on my wanting to express the inexpressible in a visual language.
Johns´ work has been described variously as informed by Art Brut yet retaining the honesty of naïve or outsider art, and his earlier paintings and works on paper were characterised by extravagant brush marks and an abstract style which has now matured into a more figurative and expressionist style.
One of the early Art Brut artists, Henry Dagar, was fascinating not least because he never exhibited a work in his living life. An incredible artist, he had a hoard of 17,000 drawings! I admired that, the quiet progress of saying something… There is an honesty in the work which I somehow connect with. These artists were creating art because they needed to. It is creative, sexual, political...
There was some amazing work in the ‘Musée de l´art brut’ dedicated to outsider art in Lausanne, Switzerland, notes Edwards. The serene, classical 18th century building houses the wildest array of works produced by self-taught artists. Many of these artists in this extraordinary collection, donated by Jean Dubuffet back in 1971, were not just outsiders or recluses but often very marginalised practitioners, such as prisoners and social deviants.
It was a terrific experience to be among this breadth of extraordinary styles from artists such as Alphonso Ossorio and Hans Krusi for example. It felt really cutting edge.
Edwards professes admiration for the work of Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter (Maybe, like Richter, I’ll get to work in a tidy studio but I doubt it, it´s not who I am!) and more locally, Aida Tomescu, Ann Thomson and Wendy Sharpe, who he describes as hard workers, (who) stuck to their guns and pushed themselves...
My current body of work, Captain Thunderbolt and the travails of Australian bushrangers, evolved from looking at Sidney Nolan´s ‘Kelly’ paintings with their brilliant colour and modernist depiction of home-made armour hammered out of ploughs. Kelly´s masked dressing has something of the spirit and grit of an Australian ethos of ‘making do’.
Narratives surrounding convict and bushranger images are integral to our Australian psyche with figures such as Ned Kelly, Captain Thunderbolt and Jack Doolan thriving in the imagination. Bush ballads are penned and images painted about such figures famed for stealing, philandering, ‘mateyness’ and murder. Despite such waywardness, they attract enormous sympathy and public intrigue, in part because of skill and stealth in evading the law. Less is known about their feisty, gun-toting partners.
One such woman was the Indigenous Mary-Ann Bugg, also known as ‘Black Mary’. She was Thunderbolt´s, ‘the gentleman bushranger’ second wife.
In ‘Young Mary-Ann Bugg on the Run’, for instance, I wanted to capture something of the resilience of female bushrangers, imagining ways they might have endured or enjoyed bushranging and family life.
By transposing the visual narrative of Kelly to that of Mary-Ann Bugg I hoped to create a painting that recalibrated both the myth and the Nolan image in history´s documentation of place.
As such, ‘Young Mary-Ann Bugg on the Run’, is homage to all bushrangers, convicts and settlers that took pride in colluding, conspiring and working to survive.
Artsite Galleries | 165 Salisbury Road Camperdown NSW 2050 | 02 80959678
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