Monday, November 10, 2014

In Conversation: Anton Hart

Anton Hart working his studio

Anton Hart has some big and bold artworks in Direction Now. Born in Melbourne in 1954, Hart studied at the University of South Australia and currently lives and works in Adelaide. His first solo exhibition was in 1992, and since then he has exhibited nationally. His works are held in a number of private, corporate and public collections, including the Art Gallery of South Australia. 


Can you tell our readers a little about your background? Where you come from, how long you’ve been making art, etc?
After being born in Melbourne, I grew up constantly moving about initially living in various beautiful regional coastal Victoria towns like Geelong and Warrnambool. Then Adelaide briefly and then up for an amazing time in Alice Springs and then later sometime in the dry summery mid-north country South Australia followed by up in the wet misty winter Adelaide Hills. Eventually and finally, we settled back here in Adelaide once again for the last time, just in time for my adolescence.

That long hitting the road experience was an invaluable endless lesson in a careful looking at the world, driving through shifting landscapes, meeting people and characters in an endless parade of listening to the world’s conversations, seasonal perfumes, late night headlights and revised ‘plan b’s’.

Art. I can’t remember when making art wasn’t a part of my ticking. Throughout my early school years I was seen as a precocious drawer of things and things imagined. In the school system, I was just an average academic student, but I could draw, excelling in my art classes and I suppose this still defines me, living in an inner world of the imagination rendered by hand & eye & mind.

Eventually, after time & some later formal studies at art school, I started to exhibit my work. Tentatively at first, in small group shows in fringe spaces and as time & events added up, into mature gallery opportunities and national/international exhibitions.

Local Storm (2004), acrylic paint and gaffer tape on canvas boards, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

Direction Now is, in many ways, a celebration of Abstraction in Art. In what ways do you see your work using abstraction?
My work has always danced around with the dual fancies of abstraction and reality. Flirting with ideas and styles. In this, probably all art work is abstract. Works that uses representation, conjuring images of flowers, a figure or a tree are all painted pictures that approximate reality in paint and they are all abstractions of one sort or another. Equally, even the most intense monochrome painting can be seen and understood through the grit of reality as a representation of real space.

I think that using terms such as abstraction and representation probably needs to be, at least reconsidered and perhaps dispensed with. Neither is especially useful or leads anyway enlighteningly new. This debate started a long way back. Remember Kazimir Malevich’s famous ‘Black Square’ was painted in 1915 at the very edge of one hundred years ago.

Over the long run of modernism and its wearing down, the so-called end of painting, into the post modernist world in which all art is now made, the persistence of painting and especially abstract painting is undeniable.
Perhaps representational pictures offer images of how the world looks, and abstract pictures perhaps give us images of how the world feels. The world today is constantly shifting and changing in ever acceleration where millions of people can add to the daily unrelenting flood of images on their smart devices, they can edit and adjust, into instants, microseconds and their existence. Abstraction remains the one whereabouts where painting can discover something genuine in our saturated media-image world. It is a surprising old/new spot that can be re-considered within an understanding of installation practice and the concept of site-specificity. 

Portrait Noise (2013), Acrylic paint and gaffer tape on vinyl tarp, 2.75m x 2.35m, Copyright courtesy of the artist.
What drew you to using abstraction?
I was never that conscious or deliberate in deciding what kind of art I should make. Painting was an extension of my instincts and decisions, my mark making, my gestures. Sweeps. Twists. Flicks. In my paintings the meaning of the work lies less in the image, and much more in the cancellations and stuttering of the things that the work is constituted. The mark making is actually a simple physical and relative thing.

Where they see yourself positioned within the history of Abstraction?
What a question. On one hand, I have affection for the everyday & I am appreciative of conceptualism, minimalism and post-minimalism for their clarity. Equally, I am drawn to expressionism and the shadowy, the uncontrollable and the indistinct. This is important because these are all ‘spaces’ that form in-between the desire for order and the real snarl of stuff.

Can you tell us what your motivations are for choosing the particular materials you work with in your artistic practice?
I am interested in the notion of rules, especially what happens within the paintings when rules are tested. For example I often deliberately work using only the cheapest of paints I can find such as ‘on special’ industrial house paints, sample paint pots, or reject paint samples that the customers didn’t like etc. I set up painting strategies that force me to paint gradually or in different ways. I often use unusual supports as well such as advertising vinyl tarps where I have to negotiate over the readymade images to find a new image. Sometimes I have even abandoned the use of paint to use materials such as gaffer tape directly on the gallery walls.

Burning Disaster (2009), Acrylic and gaffer tape on vinyl tarp, Copyright courtesy of the artist.

What is your favorite artwork in Direction Now and why (and it can’t be your own work)?
It’s impossible to pick a favorite artwork from the show, but I am particularly drawn to the works of Terri Brooks, Michael Cusack and Miles Hall. Terri’s surfaces are compelling histories, Michael’s beautiful breaths of colour and Miles’s pared back minimalism.

What’s next for you? Do you have any big projects coming up?
I am happily project free at the moment, with a dedicated clean-air time ahead in my studio and some travel thrown in. However, I am starting to plan a new solo show. Early days, but I have just finished re-reading ‘Night Studio: A Memoir Of Philip Guston’ by his daughter Musa Mayer. I too mostly inhabit my studio at night, the time when I paint. The daytime is spent cleaning up and thinking. The Night Studio.

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