Lowrey & Iain Turnbull - 3-9 June 2008
15 Tribune Street, South Bank
Apart from contributions to several group exhibitions in 2005,this shared exhibition with his partner Jen Lowrey was the only time Iain exhibited publicly following his graduation from QCA in 2004. The intervening years had been marked by major health problems for both of them – first a recurrence of serious ongoing problems that Jen had experienced since her teens and then in late 2006 Iain's own cancer diagnosis and subsequent taxing chemotherapy programs.
These problems however were not reflected in the works exhibited which were full of vibrant colour, optimism and beauty. In a brief artist's statement Iain said: -
In the painted pages I use a pre-existing element, (the printed page), as a structure that ‘gives me just enough to work with’. The words left unpainted are not meant to tell a story. Some of these words fit into the meaning and context of the work, others appear randomly.
In the boxes similar ideas are present ... taking ‘what is given’, using what is at hand, rather than looking for further elements to include. The texture of these objects, with their traces of age and use, attracts me. The boxes with small canvases start from the same point as the pages, using primary colours mixed down as I worked through the range of colours.
Inspiration comes from the colours and shapes of the objects around me ... glass, ceramics, metal, wood, the paint box and palette. The feeling I hope is one of light and colour - the pleasure in making - the beauty of all things closely seen.
In his catalogue review of Iain's works Timothy Morrell wrote as follows: –
Sometimes the works of Jennifer Lowrey and lain Turnbull seem to be set poles apart by her vigorous freedom and his systematic control. There is a rampant exuberance in Jen's intensely expressive brushstrokes and lines that seem to go where they want to, rather than where they're told. This is in clear contrast to the calmly harmonious grids and rich chords of colour that give many of Iain's works a look of confident authority. At first glance the two bodies of work are completely different, and it seems very easy to discern who did what.
Then, however, there are the works that you think are his, but turn out to be hers, and vice versa. Surely the precise block of individually coloured-in squares on a sheet of graph paper must be a Turnbull. No, it's a Lowrey. The disorderly gathering of ragged colour washes that seethes around a void of pristine blank paper looks like one of hers, but actually it's not. After making a few blunders in attribution of authorship in this exhibition, it's time for the viewer to start appreciating that the works are more ambiguous than they might seem.
Ambiguity in Iain's work is neatly contained in his White Box constructions. The systematic setsquare carpentry of the containers is very different from what's inside them. Wood is used in its milled, processed form for the surrounding structure and as natural, organic parts of a tree within this. Of course it's not that simple, because some of the rectangular compartments also contain off-cuts of building materials and milled timber in various other stages of its life cycle. The compartments have a backing of vintage lino; industrially manufactured passages of abstract expressionist painting that became familiar when modernism arrived in Australian kitchens during the mid-twentieth century. The spontaneous vs. the processed can be seen fairly directly in these boxes, and they help to explain the work that Iain did subsequently.
The brightly censored passages of text on pages from old books are often dimly legible through translucent colour washes, so the words may be simultaneously there and not there. They are obliterated yet at the same time highlighted the way we highlight lines of print with a fluorescent marker. Words and phrases that remain untouched automatically jump out. When they are taken out of context this way they are sometimes turned into witty double entendres. In Trial Balance for example, the words 'drawings are limited' now mean a lot more than the writer of the book originally intended. It may seem that the windows through paint to clearly readable, untouched words, frame the most significant glimpses of meaning in these works. In a censored document, however, what has been obscured is immediately assumed to be the most interesting part.
Blocks of colour form an abstract image in these little watercolours, and the image controls the meaning of words by rearranging the way we read them. At the same time, the process is happening in reverse, and words control the image because they determine where the artist applies his paint. This interdependence of text and image is like a yin-yang symbol, in which one part defines the other.
The same alternating binary principle is implied in the title of Iain's We/They (paint-filled columns on two pages of a Spirax score pad), but here the relationship between words and paint is less obviously interactive. This double painting is much closer to his Colour Box works, in which a dynamic is created almost entirely with colour relationships. It is also curiously similar to Jen's strident heart-shaped painting Enfin Enfin Enfin (French for 'finally'), which also has blocks of colour bounded by dark lines, but in an explosive composition instead of a sober grid. Comparing these two works makes the viewer aware that Jen's is not as wildly boisterous as the radiating shock lines might suggest, and Iain's isn't really sober at all. Both works use a colour grid, but in Enfin Enfin Enfin it's not square, and in We/They, because of the buckling of the wet paper, the colour isn't flat. Iain's colours leave irregular dark patches on the tidy grid of straight, printed lines. In both Enfin Enfin Enfin and We/They there is a lively interaction between systematic control and the forces that oppose it.
In the work of both these artists we can watch the ebb and flow of thoughts and their expression on paper, or in other materials, as the production process moves between the opposing poles of intuitive freedom and planned design. Exhibitions of small or relatively brisk works always seem to bring the viewer closer to the artist, as if the concentrated size gives a more distilled version of what they're doing. Here, we get a sense of the reciprocal interdependence of energy and logic explored in the work of lain Turnbull and Jennifer Lowrey.
In His Own Time
Memorial Retrospective Exhibitions
29 August – 11 September 2010
Under the collective title of In His Own Time two exhibitions in Iain's memory were held, running concurrently at separate venues. To visit click on the link appropriate link below: –
VISIT >> Paintings. Drawings & Assemblages
1976 - 2009
VISIT >> Printed Works on Paper
1982 - 2005
* Iain's brother Matthew, speaking at a celebration of Iain's life, remarked on how Iain always did things his own way and in his own time. Even though he was not there to enjoy the exhibitions with us, the title In His Own Time seemed an appropriate summing up of his life and his wonderful art
The Curious Collector
Exhibition in Memory of Iain Turnbull, Artist, 1965-2009
24 June - 23 July, 2010
Project Gallery, Queensland College of Art
Grey Street, South Bank, Queensland
Iain was always an avid recycler and collector of things - anything! - which he felt intuitively might have a future use. When we were clearing his house and studio of the accumulation of years ,we invited some of his close friends to help themselves to things they might find useful.
This inspired more than twenty of his friends and colleagues to organise and present a special exhibition of assemblages, drawings, prints, artists books and ephemeral works, many fashioned from or incorporating items from Iain's store, others connected with Iain by memory or association
Although none of Iain's works were actually on show, he was in this way very much present in spirit at the very moving opening of what proved to be an extraordinary exhibition.
The event raised over AUD $ 7000 to assist the work of the Oncology Services at the Mater Hospital, Brisbane where Iain had spent so many hours as an outpatient. This was augmented by the proceeds of works sold at the Memorial Retrospective Exhibitions which we had agreed to donate for the same purpose.
In all a total of about AUD $ 12,500 was presented to the Mater Hospital to purchase two special treatment chairs for the Oncology Ward. (Iain's only slight 'peeve' about the otherwise magnificent treatment there was that he could never find a completely comfortable chair!)
Yatta Exhibition Catalogue Front Cover Image: –
Trial Balance (lines) Detail (2008)
Watercolour on Book Page 18 x 24cm
Image from Invite Front: –
Manuscript (2010) - John Doyle
Mixed Media (including materials
from Iain's studio)