The Nancy Sever Gallery was 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Please click here to view images of the opening by Andrew Sikorski ‘Life in Canberra’
Ben Taylor Biographical details
Born Sydney 1960
1983–1985 Lecturer (Printmaking), Canberra School of Art
1979–1981 Diploma of Art, Canberra School of Art
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
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
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