• EXHIBITIONS

    2015 - TREBILCOCK

    Drawing is of the Spirit, Colour is of the Senses


    Exhibition dates: 10 – 29 MARCH 2015
    Opening: Tuesday 10th March, 6 – 8pm

    STEPHEN TREBILCOCK, FRANCES KEEVIL GALLERY
    DOUBLE BAY SYDNEY 10 MARCH 2015

    © David Mabberley, 2015

    Firstly I would like to thank Frances for her kind words and for her invitation to open this very significant show by Stephen - his fourth, I think, at the Gallery.

     

    The subjects in the show are almost all botanical, or at least horticultural, many of them of flowers. Flower-painting has a long pedigree as does botanical art, which differs in attempting to combine scientific accuracy with artistically pleasing composition, though is often written off as mere 'illustration' - mistakenly in my view.

     

    But Stephen's works are far from this tradition; they are portraits! Free of the constraints of illustration, he extracts and builds on the essential natures of the subjects, just as does a portraitist of people. And what portraits they are! In some ways, they approach the still-lifes of the Dutch Golden Age with their peeled lemons and sometimes staged arrangements - but, for example ... you have never seen roses portrayed in this way, crammed into a Buddha-belly-like pot, uncompromisingly full-frontal. Or the smaller fuchsia study which has a vividness, the writhing flowers almost hobgoblin-like in their wickedness.

     

    Stephen often returns to the same subject, so that it is possible to see how his painting has evolved and matured. With time his work has become more abstracted, larger and with a much more generous use of paint - to great effect. I asked him whether he uses a palette-knife in this and I hope I am not breaking a confidence in sharing with you that he does not; the adding on of paint is done with a worn-down brush, which gives in my view a more subtle and appropriate rustic effect.

     

    He also tells me that, not only does he prepare all his own canvases, but he can also work on his seasonal subjects throughout the year because he fills his sketchbooks when they are at their best - he never gets distracted by using photographs as aides-memoires: it is all in his head. And he has not shirked or avoided the difficult subjects needing the treacherous and unforgiving colour red, as seen in the waratahs, or the challenge of getting the green to purple transition in the figs. This man is not afraid!

     

    Another distinctive thing in much of Stephen's work is the lighting, usually from the lower left, giving a very striking relief to the work. And again, many of his portraits have the subjects set in interesting, yet sometimes mysterious, surroundings - perhaps with hidden meanings. I am reminded of the extraordinary work in Robert Thornton's Temple of Flora published at the end of the eighteenth century, a work that not only bankrupted Thornton [I hope this is not ominous!], but, more importantly, broke the mould of botanical art at that time.

     

    But Stephen's work is far more voluptuous - very masculine, robust and fiery, vivid - and memorable; so interesting to live with, as it reveals more and more, the more you look at it. Take for example the dazzling wattles with the paint generously added to such great effect. Or the banksia man, portrayed like a somewhat menacing dancer from New Guinea, but also almost triffid-like in the apparently hungry gaping fruits.

     

    But I want especially to draw your attention to his extraordinary depiction of fruits, in particular their surfaces - waxy, glistening and luscious, bursting with life and, in the case of one of the fig portraits, exaggeratedly spilling from their insides little fruitlets in an almost orgasmic flow - and yet weeping with droplets from the cut surfaces at the same time. This is distinguished work.

     

    And, finally, people always seem to want to know what my favourite in a show I am opening, really is - well, it's rather hard here as there are so many, in particular the figs and lemons are very engaging indeed, but, in the end, it has to be the kangaroo-paw - the backlit silhouettes add mystery to a quintessentially Australian subject, where the extraordinary velvety blossoms are rendered in almost tactile way, yet enlarged so much they seem to draw you in with their floral embrace.

     

    In short, there is much to see in the depths of these works. They are quite clearly some of the finest in their genre being created in Australia today. They are important - and it is therefore with great pleasure I formally declare the show open! Congratulations not only to Stephen, but also to Frances, working with the Intercontinental Hotel, to bring Stephen's work to the notice of the world - which is as it should be.

     

    Thank you!

    STEPHEN TREBILCOCK, FRANCES KEEVIL GALLERY
    DOUBLE BAY SYDNEY 10 MARCH 2015

    © David Mabberley, 2015

    Firstly I would like to thank Frances for her kind words and for her invitation to open this very significant show by Stephen - his fourth, I think, at the Gallery.

     

    The subjects in the show are almost all botanical, or at least horticultural, many of them of flowers. Flower-painting has a long pedigree as does botanical art, which differs in attempting to combine scientific accuracy with artistically pleasing composition, though is often written off as mere 'illustration' - mistakenly in my view.

     

    But Stephen's works are far from this tradition; they are portraits! Free of the constraints of illustration, he extracts and builds on the essential natures of the subjects, just as does a portraitist of people. And what portraits they are! In some ways, they approach the still-lifes of the Dutch Golden Age with their peeled lemons and sometimes staged arrangements - but, for example ... you have never seen roses portrayed in this way, crammed into a Buddha-belly-like pot, uncompromisingly full-frontal. Or the smaller fuchsia study which has a vividness, the writhing flowers almost hobgoblin-like in their wickedness.

     

    Stephen often returns to the same subject, so that it is possible to see how his painting has evolved and matured. With time his work has become more abstracted, larger and with a much more generous use of paint - to great effect. I asked him whether he uses a palette-knife in this and I hope I am not breaking a confidence in sharing with you that he does not; the adding on of paint is done with a worn-down brush, which gives in my view a more subtle and appropriate rustic effect.

     

    He also tells me that, not only does he prepare all his own canvases, but he can also work on his seasonal subjects throughout the year because he fills his sketchbooks when they are at their best - he never gets distracted by using photographs as aides-memoires: it is all in his head. And he has not shirked or avoided the difficult subjects needing the treacherous and unforgiving colour red, as seen in the waratahs, or the challenge of getting the green to purple transition in the figs. This man is not afraid!

     

    Another distinctive thing in much of Stephen's work is the lighting, usually from the lower left, giving a very striking relief to the work. And again, many of his portraits have the subjects set in interesting, yet sometimes mysterious, surroundings - perhaps with hidden meanings. I am reminded of the extraordinary work in Robert Thornton's Temple of Flora published at the end of the eighteenth century, a work that not only bankrupted Thornton [I hope this is not ominous!], but, more importantly, broke the mould of botanical art at that time.

     

    But Stephen's work is far more voluptuous - very masculine, robust and fiery, vivid - and memorable; so interesting to live with, as it reveals more and more, the more you look at it. Take for example the dazzling wattles with the paint generously added to such great effect. Or the banksia man, portrayed like a somewhat menacing dancer from New Guinea, but also almost triffid-like in the apparently hungry gaping fruits.

     

    But I want especially to draw your attention to his extraordinary depiction of fruits, in particular their surfaces - waxy, glistening and luscious, bursting with life and, in the case of one of the fig portraits, exaggeratedly spilling from their insides little fruitlets in an almost orgasmic flow - and yet weeping with droplets from the cut surfaces at the same time. This is distinguished work.

     

    And, finally, people always seem to want to know what my favourite in a show I am opening, really is - well, it's rather hard here as there are so many, in particular the figs and lemons are very engaging indeed, but, in the end, it has to be the kangaroo-paw - the backlit silhouettes add mystery to a quintessentially Australian subject, where the extraordinary velvety blossoms are rendered in almost tactile way, yet enlarged so much they seem to draw you in with their floral embrace.

     

    In short, there is much to see in the depths of these works. They are quite clearly some of the finest in their genre being created in Australia today. They are important - and it is therefore with great pleasure I formally declare the show open! Congratulations not only to Stephen, but also to Frances, working with the Intercontinental Hotel, to bring Stephen's work to the notice of the world - which is as it should be.

     

    Thank you!