Gian Manik’s exhibition is the culmination of an informal residency undertaken at The Australian Ballet during which the artist was welcomed to observe the company as they prepared to stage an adaptation of Don Quixote. This production was based on the eponymously titled iconic 1973 film by Rudolf Nureyev
and Sir Robert Helpmann, and it was the cyclical nature of this restaging that informed Manik’s exhibition approach.
As the artist documented the dancers rehearsing, the props and set design, he also researched the story’s themes and characters, its different iterations and their production qualities. He selected references—tenuous or otherwise—from Spanish art history that note or reflect the book, its author, and the era it was written in. As a result, Manik accumulated a vast array of images including personal photographs of the performers and stage elements, promotional content, documentary footage, stock images, and historical paintings to name a few. As he embraced the divergent aesthetics of this broad source material, Manik recognised a tempo emerge within the body of work. An energetic rhythm that somewhat reflected the ballet’s structure and implied both a progression in time and narrative.
Consequently, the storyline, sets, dancers, costumes and associated components are depicted in a range of painting techniques. On raw linen and canvas, loosely sketched portraits with compelling painterly focal points can be seen amongst broad gestural marks and daubs of thick paint. Other works are dense with pigment and collaged imagery or thin layers of colourful or monochromatic washes. Collectively, these paintings articulate how Manik’s pursuit for information, as described for Don Quixote, enables him to blend genres and subvert expectations while demonstrating how the plasticity of paint has the potential to articulate the complexities of representation.
Ralph McLean, Richmond Town Hall, Melbourne, 2023; Field works, Spring1883, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2022; Marouflage, Bus Projects, Melbourne 2021; Authentic Memories Generate Real Human Responses, Sutton Gallery Online, Melbourne 2019; Paintings, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2018; National Trust, Courthouse Gallery, Port Headland, 2018; Internal Audit, The Honeymoon Suite, Melbourne, 2018; Hi- Vis and Balcony and Sheepskin and Pilbara, Artereal, Sydney, 2017 and What is your name, It’s a Symbol, Don’t Talk, FORM, Perth, 2017.
Like a Wheel That Turns: The 2022 Macfarlane Commissions, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2022; Between the two, Caves, Melbourne, 2020; 5th/6th final Melbourne Artist Facilitated Biennale, Hero Building, Melbourne, 2019; The drawing is just not there, Westspace, Melbourne, 2018; Rough, Raw and Magic in Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2017; All or Nothing, D&K Fashion launch, RMIT Design Hub, Melbourne, 2017; Portrait Project, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 2017; and Painting, More Painting, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2016.Artist’s profile