Indeed, if the paintings cause shock and horror in one section, they comfort with humour in another. Sansom refers to the paintings as slow burners—works that creep up behind you then hit you on the head (or tickle you under the armpits).
Exhibition Dates: 15 July – 7 August 2010
“What inspired you this time?” I asked Gareth Sansom. “Old age” he replied. Sansom is three-score-years-and-ten and buzzing around in his head are thoughts of his own mortality. “What happens on the other side?”, “How much longer do I have?” he asks rhetorically. I scan the paintings and sure enough, subtle reminders of our transient existence emerge from the cacophony of colour: a skull in Hello Sailor, the text in No Time, an image of Sansom in A forensic possibility which makes him look like a ghost from Ghost Busters.
But ageing is only one of the themes covered in these eclectic psychological landscapes. There is also popular culture, cinema and sex. Phallic forms delineate or dominate the paintings. Collaged photographs question conventional notions of gender. Actresses’ names prompt images of popular glamour. A quirky shopping list mixes the banal and the eccentric. Indeed, if the paintings cause shock and horror in one section, they comfort with humour in another. Sansom refers to the paintings as slow burners—works that creep up behind you then hit you on the head (or tickle you under the armpits).
Subject matter aside, Sansom’s first priority is to make a picture that works. After fifty years of experience, he is well-equipped for the challenge. Some paintings fall into place easily he tells me; others must be worked and reworked. The very complex ones, he says, require surgery. Sansom’s idiosyncratic technique combines collage, enamel and spray paint with layers and layers of oil. He counters vast abstract sections with semi-figurative imagery, hailing Pop Art, Surrealism and Minimalism in the same breath.
Finally, Sansom warns me, “don’t be distracted by the titles”. They are as open to personal interpretation as the paintings themselves. Saint D’Do will morph from dodo to dildo—it all depends on where you’re standing.
Gareth Sansom is a central figure in Australian art and his career spans nearly five decades. He has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and internationally and is represented in every national museum collection as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and in numerous private and corporate collections in Australia and overseas. In 2005 the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne held a major survey show titled ‘Welcome to my mind’ and in 2008 Sansom was awarded the McCaughey Memorial Prize. From 1986 to 1991 Sansom was Dean of the School of Art at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA). Gareth Sansom was the inaugural exhibition when Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery first opened in 1982.