Throughout his decades-long career, Stephen Bush has explored the possibilities and limitations of figurative painting. Known for his depictions of costumed participants and icons of visual culture set within idealised landscapes, Bush utilises the canvas to advance ideas about the dualities that describe the crises of contemporary existence. Inspired by the antagonism, unease and disunity that underscored 1970’s punk music and the ensuing post-punk movement, Bush uses the canvas as a locus of conflicting forces.
Defiance and conformity, ambition and failure, passivity and resistance, are a few of the themes that surface in Mule Skin. In some artworks, Bush lets the physical materiality of the spilt, dripped and pooled paint direct the content, while in others, his self-determined marks predict the outcome. Set against luminous expanses of paint, defunct agricultural machines, laborers and nobleman appear, as do canines that cavort, pursue, hover and float. Unleashed from the confines of their estates, Bush’s hunting dogs disrupt the static continuity evoked by the presence of the artist’s other silent narrators. At once benign and complex, the works reflect upon the existential turmoil inherent to us all.
Festooned, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2016; MCA Foyer Wall Commission, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2016; In the Quiet Deep, Michael Reid Gallery, Berlin, 2016; Steenhuffel, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2014; VOLTA Art Fair, New York, 2012; Melbourne Art Fair, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, 2010; Gelderland, SITE: Santa Fe, 2007.
Carnivalesque, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2018; Sugar Spin, GOMA, Brisbane, 2017; Panorama, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healsville, 2016; Hiding in Plain Sight: A Selection of Works from The Michael Buxton Collection, Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo, 2015.