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Figures of Difference

Opening the latest exhibition by Murrurundi & District Historical Society, Brad Franks, Manager of Muswellbrook

Regional Arts Centre said the small community was fast developing into an art clique in the Upper Hunter.

Around 40 people turned out for the opening and witnessed not only a complete change in art directions but also a revamped exhibition church hall now labelled by the museum as "Gods waiting room."

The event encompassed three artists' all emanating from the Wollongong University regions on the New South Wales South Coast.

Now a local, artist Jelle van den Berg has been joined by NSW South Coast artists Richard Hook and Leonie Watson.

"This exhibition will present paintings by three Illawarra artists who make use of the human figure. Its rationale is two-fold: to contrast some dramatically different approaches to working with the body in painting and to show how these varied representations also embody very different approaches to the medium and its history," Jelle van den Berg said.

Richard Hooks described his works: "These paintings shift our attention to the ambiguous figure-ground relations of modern painting and abstraction.

"The body is celebrated for its inherent mobility and its potential to generate new structures for paintings.

"However, the figures are not merely arbitrary compositional devices. Each body takes up a position that is always part of some action, moving or still."

For Leonie Watson, draperies come to stand in for the body by visual analogy: the skin's surface is evoked by creases, folds, bulges and invaginations that suggest the body's hidden topographies.

Watson employs drapery as a sculptural object in order to develop a language of unexpected forms for articulating aspects of everyday existence normally hidden from view.

The paintings appropriate Baroque style in their extreme chiaroscuro and their theatricality, but they also recall the inversions of Surrealism and thus acknowledge the continuing relevance of these historical models to contemporary art practice.

Photo: Robin Babbage, Meredith Spencer-Lowe, Deborah Dawes and Chuck Gordon at Murrurundi opening.

Photo and media release courtesy of the Murrurundi & District Historical Society.