In the manner of a modern-day visionary Wayde Owen is witness to the truth of his inner experiences and perceptions of external realities. Functioning both as sumptuous surface and cathartic release, his work opens the sluices of Self as far as they can be raised. In an apocalyptic tumult of paint Owen transmutes intensely personal substance into Art. Rampantly expressive and necessarily subjective, few would deny the raw power of Owen's confronting images, described by him as ‘critical allegories that deeply engage personal history, mongrelness, memory, mortality and the paradoxes of the human condition.'

Significantly arranged into hierarchical, pack-like groupings, Wayde Owen's Mugs and Mongrels hang on the gallery wall in the semblance of a collection of trophies or sub-cultural emblems. Defiant and formidable, his ‘anthropomorphic quails, Staffordshire bull terriers and pit bulls, along with skulls, bikies, convicts, lowlifes and deadheads' positively demand that the viewer pays heed!

Owen's potent new series references his formative years growing up in Sydney's tough western suburbs - a locale considered by outsiders to be a ‘no go zone' inhabited by ‘mongrel breeds of mixed ethnicity eking out an existence under the thrall of drug and booze fuelled-bikie gangs.' Explaining the Mugs and Mongrels title for this body of work, Owen says that a ‘mug' is a slang term for an individual's face, as in a ‘mug shot', and that it also designates ‘a loser, an idiot, one who is easily fooled or gullible.' Usually derogatory in implication, the term mongrel alludes to a person or species of mixed breeding, as well as a despicable character. Wayde Owen's brawny mongrels - hybrid in both motif and style - are treated equivocally. Angry and thoroughly aggressive in stance, the horned creatures manifest a frustration born of deprivation and the absence of a cultural identity.

Although Wayde Owen's art practice encompasses varied disciplines, including sculpture and installation work, it is in the immediacy and inherent challenges of painting and drawing ‘from memory' that he finds his greatest fulfillment. Since winning the seventh Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2005, Owen's style has undergone a series of metamorphoses. Increasingly his imagery eschews pictorial refinement and compositional factors in the quest to extract some kind of ‘existential' essence. Isolated by placement, circumstance and ‘otherness', Owen's hybrid protagonists have now assumed front and centre stage, thrusting forth from grounds of turbulent, monochromatic pigment. As Owen explains, ‘The artistic process is an on-going struggle, I do not work to cover up imperfections. I aim for this struggle to be seen in my paintings and drawings. In an increasingly emotionless age of digital technology it is important to demonstrate that my art is handmade.'

Curious architectural structures enter or exit the mouths of Wayde Owen's subjects. Deliberately imprecise and distorted, the shapes ‘mirror the ambiguity of ‘message' and communication in all its forms.' In the Mugs and Mongrels series, the muzzles and architectural shapes have also come to represent containment or protection. Visual metaphors for control, Owen says the structures now operate as ‘defense mechanisms in an increasingly frightening world.' Eminent writer, Rex Butler, made comment on the intriguing shapes in a recent article critiquing Wayde Owen's work, ‘Those lattices coming out of his figures' mouths can be seen as something like words - the paintings' attempt to speak to us. In this dead time for art, Owen seeks again the codes or conventions that would allow it once again to have meaning.'


» Back to previous page