JOHN SCURRY | Paintings

7 June - 2 July 2017

John Scurry is a Melbourne artist whose exhibiting profile dates back to his early post student days in 1969 to this current exhibition of paintings at the Nancy Sever Gallery in Canberra

His work is represented in several major collections such as the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and the Geelong Art Gallery as well as many private collections.                                                  

Concurrent with his studio practice he taught for over three decades in schools of art in Melbourne. His last sixteen years as a senior lecturer at VCA University of Melbourne, where he was a former head of printmaking.

This is his second solo exhibition in Canberra.

John Scurry – Recent Paintings.

While he is also a painter of beautifully nuanced, unassuming landscapes, John Scurry’s art is primarily that of the studio interior and still-life. His is an art at once urban and urbane.

These interiors – and the still-lives that inhabit them – are of the artist’s studio and its resident population of objects, both mundane and idiosyncratic, to which Scurry returns again and again. It is in the banal and overlooked things – the insignificant objects of modern life – that he finds his true metier. In the exquisite precision of his painting, his cool palette and ironic juxtapositions there is at once tenderness and detachment, a poetry of the every-day.

In some paintings the interior and exterior worlds touch. The quiet, contemplative life of the studio, the carefully placed or suddenly noticed things - a discarded light bulb, a paper coffee cup, an empty frame – are ironically displaced by the passing and sometimes unexpected life outside the studio window. In such paintings two worlds collide; they evoke a dialogue between states of being, between the internal and external worlds, of self and other – albeit characteristically wryly observed.

While Scurry notes that though “touched by several of the ‘isms’ that pervaded the art world since the 1960s”, he established himself as a “somewhat independent artist… drawn innately to the primacy of the visual world”. He observes, when pushed, that his paintings “come from an impulse to depict” and are a “response to the seen, to the mute presence and suggestiveness of things” – that they result from “a collapsing together of the moment and memory”.

And so Scurry’s art often juxtaposes narratives as mysterious as the presence of still-life elements transformed beyond the quotidian by his meticulous painterly rendering. His is a world acutely observed, familiar though often unsettling, and not infrequently charged with an undercurrent of laconic wit.

Elizabeth Cross,

May 2017

Artworks included in the exhibition:

(for details of the works, please click and hold cursor over the image)

To read review  by Anita Patel


John Scurry | Biographical details

1947 Born Melbourne, Australia


Solo Exhibitions

2017 Recent Work, Nancy Sever Gallery, Canberra

2012 John Scurry: Paintings, Chapman Gallery, Canberra

2011 Recent Work, [MARS] Gallery, Melbourne

2006 Recent Work, [MARS] Gallery, Melbourne

2003 Joshua McClelland Print Rooms, Melbourne

2000 Joshua McClelland Print Rooms, Melbourne

1999 AXIA Modern Art, Melbourne

1995 Australian Galleries, Melbourne

1992 Powell Street Graphics, Melbourne

1990 Powell Street Gallery, Melbourne

1975 Stuart Gerstman Gallery, Melbourne

Group Exhibitions (selected)

2017 Blue Chip X1X: The Collectors’ Exhibition, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

2010 Constellations, A Large Number of Small Drawings, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne

2010 In the Kitchen Sink, [MARS] Gallery, Melbourne

2008 Dobell Drawing Prize Art Gallery of NSW; 7th Drawing Biennale, Drill Hall, Canberra

2006 Snap Freeze: Still Life Now, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria

2006 MARS Goes to Treasury Place, Treasury Place, Melbourne; One Square Foot, [MARS] Gallery, Melbourne

2005 The Launch, [MARS] Gallery, Melbourne; One Square Foot, [MARS] Gallery, Melbourne

2001 Dobell Prize for Drawing, AGNSW, Sydney; Fremantle Print Prize, Fremantle, Western Australia

2000 Desire, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne; Melbourne International Art Fair, Melbourne

1997 The Real Thing, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne

1994 Unpeeled Art, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria; The Archibald Prize, AGNSW, Sydney

1993 Arrangement: Australian Still Life 1973 – 1993, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne; Dobell Prize for Drawing, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

1987-90 Young Australians, National Touring Exhibition

1983 Faces and Figures Drawn from Life, Heide Museum of Modern Art

1981 McCaughey Prize Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Aspects of Realism, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

1969 Three-Man Exhibition, Gallery 99, Melbourne


ANZ Bank


Art Gallery of NSW

Australia Club

Ballarat Fine Art Gallery

Bendigo Art Gallery

Canberra School of Art, The Australian National University.

Castlemaine Art Gallery

Deakin University

Devonport Art Gallery and Museum

Geelong Art Gallery

Mitchell Endowment, National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria

Newcastle Art Gallery

Print Council of Australia

Shell Australia Collection

University of Melbourne

University of Vilnius, Lithuania

University of Western Australia

Victoria College

Victorian College of the Arts

Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council

Western Mining Corporation

Private Collections



1991 Portrait of Prof. J Hurley, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Melbourne

1988 John Bourne and Associates

1986 Portrait of Mr. Maxwell Hooper, Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education

1984 Portrait of Bishop of Canberra, Anglican Archdiocese, Canberra

1980 Portrait of Merrimee Family, French Embassy, Canberra

1979 Portrait of John Nathan, College of Optometry, University of Melbourne

         Print Council of Australia

         Portrait of Sir Douglas Menzies, Monash University

1978 Portrait of Emeritus Professor H. Atkinson, Dental School, University of Melbourne