The Nancy Sever Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Ben Taylor.

Ben Taylor was born in Sydney in 1960. He is a graduate of the Canberra School of Art and was a lecturer in Printmaking there from 1983 to 1985. He has been exhibiting throughout Australia since 1983 and his work is to be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian National University, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, the University of New South Wales, the Newcastle Regional Gallery, Parliament House and Artbank.

Taylor has a home in the Monaro where he works in an old fettler’s cottage surrounded by decaying railway buildings. The trains no longer run. Grass grows up through the tracks and the cows are gradually pushing over the railway workers’ sheds. But it is in this unlikely setting that the artist finds escape from the pressures of the city and inspiration to nurture his artistic creativity.

Peter Haynes is an arts writer and historian, and the curator of this exhibition. He has described Ben Taylor’s present body of work as “a reinforcement of the validity of the exemplar of his restless curiosity and exploration of the rural surroundings that occupy a substantial portion of his life”.

“In the current exhibition we are presented with very particular views of parts of the sheds and other rural structures,” Peter Haynes writes. “There is a sort of naïve directness in the manner in which Taylor configures his images. The faults and flaws that characterise his decaying structures do not seem out of place........Taylor celebrates what once was while pictorializing its decay. There is however an attractive warmth imbued into these works through the artist’s use of soft atmospheric colours and the clever use of black in the outlining of the structures. Taylor has developed his pictorial language to a level of finesse and certitude that speaks of his deep attachment to place and to his concomitant attachment to the activity of painting”.

Ben Taylor | Paintings opens at the Nancy Sever Gallery on Wednesday 15 May 2019 and runs until 16 June. For further information please contact Nancy Sever at nancy.sever@iinet.com.au or Tel 02 6182 0055. The Gallery is open Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm.

Ben Taylor. Paintings.

Painting seems like some kind of peculiar miracle that I need to have again and again. Philip Guston.

 

Ben Taylor has been exhibiting since the early 1980s with his most recent solo exhibition being held in Sydney in 2013. The space between that exhibition and the present one does not mean that his painting practice ceased. Rather this hiatus was a time for revivification, contemplation and continuous making that has resulted in the current body of work; a reinforcement of the validity of the exemplar of his restless curiosity and exploration of the rural surroundings that occupy a substantial portion of his life.

Taylor has a home on the Monaro that was part of a suite of buildings around a now disused railway station. Many of these structures are falling apart, barely standing in a state of continuing dilapidation. The decaying timbers, rusting wires and bent nails that constitute these buildings have fascinated Taylor since he first encountered the lunar topographies of the Monaro and have continued to do so. These encounters began when he was a young man and the rural thrust of his subject-matter separated him from the urban buzz of many of his contemporaries in Sydney and particularly in Melbourne. This did not mean that he was unaware of the burgeoning Expressionist wave that swept through Australian painting in the late 1970s and 1980s. It simply meant that the impact of the rural landscape as occupied by man and his attachment to it would inform his subject-matter despite the pictorial language he chose to clothe that subject-matter in. His chosen language clearly has an Expressionist lean and he has fine-tuned that throughout his career.

Taylor’s form of Expressionism is less to do with existential Angst and urgent paint application and more to do with the quasi-comic iterations of Philip Guston, an artist with especial appeal for Taylor. Guston’s cartoon-like figures and objects outlined in red or black have a direct visual simplicity that belies their often complex personal and socio-political themes. Guston’s ostensibly simple directness imbued with personal meaning provided an apposite artistic exemplar for Taylor, and one that would elide with his passion for the rural surroundings that gave him his subject-matter. Taylor’s work (like Guston’s) is also full of a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, a wry world view that concurrently alludes to the absurdity and dark side of our lives. While these characteristics hold a degree of idiosyncrasy their presence in Taylor’s images is not lost on his viewers.

In the current exhibition we are presented with very particular views of parts of sheds and other rural structures. Nails proliferate and are given personalities at odds with their metallic being. There is a sort of naïve directness in the manner in which Taylor configures his images. The faults and flaws that characterise his decaying structures do not seem out of place. Rather they are integral reminders of the processes the walls and floors are undergoing, and indeed invite us to embrace these processes. In a sense Taylor celebrates what once was while pictorializing its decay. There is however an attractive warmth imbued into these works through the artist’s use of soft atmospheric colours and the clever use of black in the outlining of the structures. Taylor has developed his pictorial language to a level of finesse and certitude that speaks of his deep attachment to place and to his concomitant attachment to the activity of painting.

Peter Haynes (Exhibition Curator)

Canberra, April 2019

Artworks included in the exhibition:

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

Views of the exhibition

Ben Taylor Biographical details

Born Sydney 1960     

1983–1985   Lecturer (Printmaking), Canberra School of Art

1979–1981   Diploma of Art, Canberra School of Art

Solo exhibitions

2013             Maunsell Wickes Gallery, Sydney  

2010             Maunsell Wickes Gallery, Sydney

2008             Maunsell Wickes Gallery, Sydney           

2005             Maunsell Wickes Gallery, Sydney

2004             Helen Maxwell Gallery, Canberra

2004             Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney

2003             Barry Stern Gallery, Sydney

2002             Helen Maxwell Gallery Canberra

1999             Spiral Arm Gallery, Canberra

1997             Coventry Gallery, Sydney

1995             Chapman Gallery, Canberra

1994             Coventry Gallery, Sydney        

1993             Coventry Gallery, Sydney        

1992             Coventry Gallery, Sydney        

1991             Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra

1990             Coventry Gallery, Sydney        

1989             Ben Grady Gallery,Canberra.  Coventry Gallery, Sydney      

1988             Reconnaissance Gallery, Melbourne

1987             Ben Grady Gallery, Canberra

1986             Garry Anderson Gallery, Sydney.  Solander Gallery, Canberra

1983             Bitumen River Gallery, Canberra

Selected group exhibitions

2005            Moist. Australian Watercolours, National Gallery of Australia

2004            Recent acquisitions, Canberra Museum and Gallery

2003, 2000   National Works on Paper Award, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery

2000             Natural Progression, Studio One Gallery, Canberra

1997             First Canberra Drawing Biennale, ANU, Drill Hall Gallery

1995             Contemporary Art Fair, Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery

1994             The print, the press, the artist, and the printer, ANU, Drill Hall Gallery

1993             Chandler Coventry: A Private Collection, Campbelltown City Art Gallery

                     The National Gallery of Australia Rotary Collection of Australian Art,

                     NGA travelling exhibition

1992             Artists from Canberra and Districts in the Parliament House Art Collection,

                     New Parliament House, Canberra

1991             New Art Five, Coventry Gallery, Sydney

1990             The 21st Alice Prize, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs

                     Campus Collections: Art at the University of New South Wales and

                     College of Fine Arts, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney

1990             Students Print Exhibition, Canberra School of Art Gallery, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music Gallery

                     Canbrart: A Selection of Works by Artists from the ACT and Districts, ANU

1989             Packsaddle, New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale

                     New Art 1989: Sydney, BMG Fine Art, Sydney

1988             A New Generation 1983-88: Philip Morris Arts Grant Purchases, Australian National Gallery          

                     10:1 Print Project, Studio One, Canberra, Wagga City Art Gallery,

                     Print Council Gallery, Melbourne

1987             The Figure: Andrew and Lillian Pederson Memorial prizes for Drawing and Printmaking, Queensland Art Gallery

1986             Prints: a group show, Reconnaissance Gallery, Melbourne

1985             Selected Staff Exhibition, Canberra School of Art Gallery

                     Faber-Castel Prize for Drawing, Rex Irwin Gallery, Sydney

1984             Three Artists: Nick Cosgrove, Bruce Reynolds, Ben Taylor,

                     Bitumen River Gallery, Canberra

1983             International Print Exhibit: 1983, Taipei, Taiwan

Collections

Artbank,  Baker & McKenzie.   BHP Billiton .  Newcastle Regional Gallery

Canberra School of Art  and Bruce Hall, Australian National University,

Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane.  Parliament House, National Gallery of Australia,

Sir William Dobell Art Foundation,  University of New South Wales.

Awards and commissions

1998             Poster for 1998 Sydney Fringe Festival

1993             Set design for Canberra Dance Theatre Wedding on the Eifel Tower NGA

1991             Inaugural Canberra Critics Circle Award for Visual Arts

1989             Mural for National Gallery of Australia

Selected bibliography

Sasha Grishin 'Artist's life revealed' Canberra Times, 12 September 1999

Nancy Sever First Canberra Drawing Biennale, exhibition catalogue, ANU, 1996

Sasha Grishin 'A fresh start in emerging maturity' Canberra Times,

Neville Drury Images Two: Contemporary Australian Painting, Craftsman House, 1994

Sasha Grishin 'Taylor has authenticity and intimate vision' Canberra Times, 20 August 1994

Sioux Garside Chandler Coventry, Campbelltown Regional Art Gallery, 1993

National Gallery of Australia Rotary Collection of Australian Art, exhibition catalogue, 1993

Jude Savage ’The Rotary Collection of Australian Art’ in NGA News, May/June 1993

Katrina Rumley Integrating Art on Campus: The UNSW Collection, UNSW, 1992

Peter Haynes Artists from Canberra & Districts in the Parliament House Art Collection, 1992

Neville Drury (ed.), New Art Five, Craftsman House, 1991

Sonia Barron 'Out of the ordinary' Canberra Times, 14 September 1991

Michael Desmond Canbrart: A Selection of Works from the ACT and Districts,

exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Australia, 1990

Christopher Allen 'Exploring the bush experience' Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 1989

Sasha Grishin 'Sensuous masses of glowing paint' Canberra Times, 21 August 1989

10:1 Print Project, exhibition catalogue, Studio One, Canberra, 1988

'Exhibition Commentary', Art & Australia, Vol 24, No.4, Winter 1987

The Figure: The Andrew & Lilian Pederson Memorial Prize catalogue, QLD Art Gallery, 1987

Karen Middleton 'Lots of Life in the Country' Canberra Times, 12 November 1987

Sasha Grishin 'Authentic language of bush humour' Canberra Times 21 November 1987

Basil Hall 'Studio One Printmaking Workshop's 10:1 Print Project 1987-88'

Imprint, Vol 23, No.5, March 1987

Sasha Grishin 'Gentle humour in outback' Canberra Times, 17 October 1986

Sasha Grishin 'Environmental response' Canberra Times, 29 September 1984

Sasha Grishin  'Scenes drenched with humour', Canberra Times, 12 November 1983