Stephen Bush The devil drives

16 October –
15 November 2008
Faith in worthless knowledge
Stephen Bush

Faith in worthless knowledge

, 2008
Oil and enamel on linen
183 x 183cm

Sutton Gallery is pleased to present The devil drives, an exhibition of new works by Melbourne artist Stephen Bush. Employing his idiosyncratic painting style, Bush presents visually arresting works which grapple with the nuances of the compulsion we call “desire”.

Lurid pinks, greens, purples and yellows erupt onto the canvas creating psychedelic landscapes. These fluid backgrounds are overlaid with carefully crafted pockets of detail. Process is as crucial to Bush’s practice as the finished product. Pouring paint liberally onto the canvas he allows it to flow freely, once dry he then builds up pictorial elements suggested by the splatters and spills of its luscious surface. The resulting imagery contains compelling tensions between chaos and control, the illusive and tangible, unease and comfort, utopia and the apocalyptic.

Fantastical settings of alpine vistas, bubbling brooks and cavernous underground networks are populated by a perplexing assortment of objects including snaking autobahns, abandoned wooden scaffolding, trophies, Modernist architecture and floating rubber plants. This disjointed ensemble speaks of mans drive forward, his endless quest for a utopian ideal. Inevitably these same objects point the failure of such an enterprise.

Central to each image is a dwelling, whether it takes the form of a rustic wooden cabin or the pot belly stove that occupies its interior. Infusing the works with a Gospel tone, these abodes signal a longing for a refuge to retreat into, a place to be protected and nurtured within. The beekeeper also makes a reappearance in these latest works. Wrapped in protective clothing, the apiarist takes on an almost Sharman-like presence. Actively working to tame wild elements of nature, it embodies a desire to mould and manipulate the world around us whilst simultaneously seeking protection from it.

The devil drives is Stephen Bush’s fourth solo exhibition with Sutton Gallery, and follows on from a period of intense critical attention for the artist. Having held a highly acclaimed survey show at Site, Santa Fe in 2007; he won the prestigious Arthur Guy Memorial Prize later that year. Bush has already held a solo exhibition in New York in early 2008 and is due to exhibit as part of a major painting show, Optimism, to be held at the Queensland Art Gallery in November.

Artist’s profile