Jack Pemble

Another Slice of the Devils Pie

May 7 - May 19 2011

"The face is the gateway to the soul - one eye, one window. Painting is for me a raw process, a simple sketch layered with oil smeared onto board; it's all about expression and emotion, light and more light." Jack Pemble 2011

Jack Pemble's disturbingly visceral portraits exist in utter contrast to Emma Gale's rainbow-hued visual spoofs on contemporary culture's preoccupation with fame and recognition. Conversely, Pemble's art trawls the murky depths of the unconscious with thick, turbulent, autonomic slashes of paint. Another Slice of the Devil's Pie is the expression of his journey into a netherworld we would not expect one so young to have made. These pictures are testament to Pemble's somewhat mythic-like descent from and return to the light.

"For this exhibition I have painted people who inspire me and continue to do so", says Pemble. Not surprisingly, the subjects he has chosen to depict all seem to have embraced a controversial, 'outsider' approach to reality and self-expression. They include the artist Jenny Watson whose early career was nourished by an involvement in Melbourne's burgeoning, underground music scene. Now an Adjunct Professor in Painting at Brisbane's QCA, she was Pemble's drawing teacher and general 'all round' mentor. Watson will open his exhibition.

The portrait Ol' Dirty Bastard references the late 'rap' artist who used this title as a stage name. He was a founding member of the highly influential New York hip-hop band, Wu-Tang Clan. Because of his defiant nonconformism, Ol' Dirty Bastard is remembered as a kind of anarchistic folk hero. Pemble's penchant for non-mainstream bands with a dissident streak is again evidenced in his Portrait of Yolandi Visser. The snarly, diminutive blonde with outrageously provocative onstage antics co-fronts the South African 'rap-rave' group, Die Antwoord.

Indulging his interest in the lives of artists with a doggedly Bohemian bent, Pemble created the work, Hyena of Hara, pictured here. It is a portrait of the celebrated French poet Arthur Rimbaud who had notably ceased his poem writing before his twenty-first birthday. For the last ten years of Rimbaud's life, home was the old walled-city of Harar in Eastern Ethiopia. The painting was inspired by Pemble's discovery of a little known story that tells of the ailing, pain-wracked Rimbaud hobbling down to the city's outskirts at dusk to feed the hyenas.

"Gateways to the soul" is how Pemble describes the faces he paints. Curiously, they are portraits with only "one eye, one window". In diverse ancient traditions the eye is a talisman with connotations of light and lucidity and the ability to reach beyond the boundaries of the rational mind. The invisible 'third eye' was an all-seeing eye capable of transmitting supernatural rays. Negative associations also occur and include that of the baleful 'evil eye' whose gaze rendered its victim defenseless or turned to stone.

Pemble is perhaps not consciously referencing such symbolism but his one-eyed imagery certainly has a power to arrest or recoil the viewer. The works are quite small, and being painted on wooden panels the portraits seem like discordant, mutant icons. The uncharacteristically precise, vertical stripes and areas of flat, glossy blackness have a compressive quality that contrasts and intensifies the writhing mass of the central image. Pemble's 'no holds barred' immersion in the processes of painting earned him an inclusion in the 2007 Metro Art Award as its youngest ever finalist. He simply shrugs, "I let my painting do the talking for me."


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