Sutton Gallery is pleased to present club soda unbridled, an exhibition of new works by Stephen Bush. Freed from directed narratives and formal constraints, these paintings reveal the artist’s penchant for experimentation and discovery of form through process. The use of vibrant, amplified color has been a hallmark of Bush’s work for the past two decades: he has rendered, poured, and dripped paint during this period to create otherworldly scenes. Club soda unbridled revisits Bush’s decision to engage with his own notion of pictorial illusionism, which has developed over time as a result of the artist’s dedication to the acts of looking and pondering. This slow, solitary two-step percolates between the mundane and the lofty, and the logical and the quixotic. Such contrasts are presented against versions of Alpine mountain-scapes–a longstanding leitmotif for Bush–where activity, or inactivity, occurs.
Bush repeats many figures and symbols from earlier bodies of work, including goats, equestrians, farm machinery, Flemish genre scenes, and decorative flourishes. There is a fluidity applied to each character and object: within these fabricated, multi-coloured worlds, they frolic, saunter and gaze into the vast, distant landscape. These subjects are deliberately employed as adaptable, discursive symbols, keeping meaning open; moreover, as Natasha Bullock has noted, ‘Bush, for whom consideration of the act of painting within art history is a central tenet of his work, made the decision to combine representation with abstraction in order to amplify the pre-existing contradictory of his logic’.i Indeed, while Bush’s images are often difficult to decipher, he paints with such technical elegance and gleeful exuberance that he never fails to engage.
Stephen Bush graduated from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Fine Arts in 1978 and has since gone on to have a prolific professional career, recognised in Australia and abroad. Bush’s practice is built on a series of works, each created through a different aesthetic approach but linked by their surreal sensibility. His chosen subjects are diverse and atypical: beekeepers, rubbish bins, alpine scenes, Babar the elephant and men on horses, amongst many other idiosyncratic references. Like his subject matter, Bush’s painterly range is varied and free-flowing, moving from lurid abstraction to figuration realism.
Bush has exhibited extensively in Australia and the USA since 1984. Highlights include his participation in Future Tense: Reshaping the Landscape, Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY, USA, in 2008; as well as a major solo exhibition at SITE Santa Fe, in 2007 and a survey exhibition at The Ian Potter Museum, University of Melbourne, in 2003. Other recent exhibitions include VOLTA Art Fair, New York, USA, 2012; Marie Celeste, Artspace, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, 2011; and Contemporary Encounters, The Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne, 2010. Bush’s work is held in all Australia’s major collecting institutions and numerous prestigious private collections including BHP Billiton, Melbourne; Commonwealth Bank Collection, Sydney; Michael Buxton Collection, Melbourne; Museum of Old & New Art (MONA), Hobart; Wesfarmers Collection, Perth; and Western Mining, Melbourne. He is the only resident Australian painter featured in Phaidon’s current major publication ‘Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting’. Bush recently undertook the prestigious Green Street Studio Residency, New York, in January through to March 2012.
i Natasha Bullock, ‘Stephen Bush; When I was here I wanted to be there’, Art & Australia, vol. 49, no. 2,