Geoffrey Proud

Other Realms - Recent Paintings and Pastels

August 21 - September 5 2009

There was a time when the world seemed younger and magic glimmered in the shady bowers and shafts of slanted light, or radiated from turbulent windswept skies alive with portent and vivid hues.  The art of Geoffrey Proud reopens the door into 'topsy turvy' lands where reason has been subverted and anything is possible.

Since first exhibiting in the 60's, Geoffrey Proud's style has undergone a series of metamorphoses.  His winning entry in the 1976 Sulman Prize was a painting on perspex.  Years later in 1990, he won the Archibald Prize with an impasto portrait of writer Dorothy Hewett, the rawness of its execution epitomising her indomitable spirit.  These days Proud's oil paintings have a very different resonance.  A curious mixture of innocence and decadence, melancholia and humour, they exude a slick, strangely compelling presence.  The natural and supernatural seem to converge in lush, rustic landscapes and exotic interiors.  Figures and objects dissolve in liquid, luminous glazes; melting into another time, another era.

In the painting Fauntleroy, the charming countenance of a golden-haired boy appears amidst a garden of full-blown flowers.  Swirls of rapidly applied paint slash at the drowsy, damask-like atmosphere, but there is no hint of fear or shyness in his gaze.  He holds our attention, for there are things we'd like to know about this lace-collared little Fauntleroy.  Is he the angelic Cedric of the famous 19th century story, or the spoiled, precious brat that modern usage of the Fauntleroy name has come to typify?  But then again, this comely child might represent something else altogether.  The barely discernible white rabbit skidding in a flurry of blue over the child's head suggests that definitive answers are unlikely.

Geoffrey Proud's whimsical inventiveness is allowed full reign in his pastel work.  Rabbits, with their folkloric lunar and trickster associations, pop up everywhere.  In one piece, a suitably attired, large white rabbit with protruding teeth stands in front of a walled enclosure.  'It's true!' he insists, 'I am your long lost cousin Alexander'.  The two young girls dressed top-to-toe in red, look not at all perturbed at the rabbit's declaration.  Behind them, the open gate reveals a steep path leading up through overgrown gardens and swaying cypresses to a hill-top castle.  Pennants flapping on twin conical turrets herald an impending slippage into Other Realms.  Chromatically rich and vigorously calligraphic, Geoffrey Proud's pastels present as wonderfully whacky narratives where life's more tumultuos moments are diffused in comic spirit.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1946, Geoffrey Proud held his first solo exhibition at the age of sixteen.  Since that time he has exhibited in all states with over 80 solo exhibitions and in excess of 100 group exhibitions to his credit.  Geoffrey Proud is represented in the National Gallery of Australia, most State and regional galleries as well as many other public and corporate collections including; The Parliament House Collection, Artbank, the IBM collection and the Elton John collection, London.  He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 1990 Archibald Prize for his portrait of writer Dorothy Hewett; the Gosford Art Prize, 1994; the Coffs Harbour Art Purchase Prize, 1977; the George Crouch Golden Jubilee Invitation Exhibition, Ballarat, 1977; the Darnell de Gruchy Invitation Prize Award, University of Queensland, 1977; the Sydney Georges Prize, Melbourne (acquisition), 1976; the Latrobe Valley Purchase Prize, 1976; the Coffs Harbour Art Purchase Prize, 1976; Sulman Prize, 1975; the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize, National Gallery of Victoria, 1975.

Jacqueline Houghton

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