The seven paintings that comprise the exhibition
exemplify conceptual and stylistic shifts since 2003, illustrating an
amplification of Bush’s signature style. Melding representation and
abstraction, the new work expounds upon past series, namely Penetrol,
in what Ashley Crawford described as, “rustic retreats set amidst
swirling, abstracted Alpine mountain-scapes and mind-shattering skies.
His clapboard cabins…are painted in an almost realistic style, but the
skies above are purely crazed abstractions-a hallucinogenic tsunami of
Blending, enamel and oil paints on linen, Bush creates lustrous surfaces pulsing with vibrant, nearly neon, color combinations. Treating paint as liquid, Bush allows it to pour freely over the canvas resulting in a marbleized, “accidental” environ within which he constructs his formal narrative.
Bush’s paintings, Nell McClister wrote in ArtForum, “What was quiet and
meditative becomes shrieking and ominous, the sublime depiction of
majestic topography twisted into garish chemical goo…Bush turns some
the of the landscape genre’s central terms inside out. Rather than a
mind calmed by the natural environment, these paintings record the
external manifestation of psychological trauma.”
Not solely landscapes of saturated hues, Fiddleback features man-made structures and objects, represented by examples of rudimentary architecture like the A-frame cabin that sits tranquilly in the distance of “One of These Things First”. In “Ficus Elastica” and “Road with Such Intent”, apocalyptic noise threatens the melancholic quiet as brazen swirls literally encroach upon, disrupt, and in some cases overcome, the solidity of the carefully constructed homes. Other works such as, “Satan’s Got a River,” depict cast iron stoves emphasizing the tension between a glorified past and a progressive future as Bush brings the internal elements of domesticity out into the open, stripped of their function and laid bare to the elements.
While process, technique and rigid self-discipline are paramount to the imagery, it is Bush’s concern with Australia’s post-colonial identity and the history of Australian art, i.e. “male painting,” that feed his work conceptually.
In 1991-1992 Stephen Bush’s work was the subject of a traveling museum exhibition entitled “Claiming: An Installation of Paintings by Stephen Bush” at the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, Melbourne, the Contemporary Art Center of South Australia, Adelaide and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Connecticut. In 2003 Bush had a solo exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne. More recently, a collection of Bush’s paintings from various series were exhibited by SITE Santa Fe Museum in New Mexico. Additionally, two works from the Lure of Paris series were included in the 2007 G + R summer group show about repetition and painting. His work is in the collections of most major Australian museums and in numerous private collections world-wide.