20th July 2016
Hawthorn Artists Society welcomed Melbourne artist Juan Ford as our guest speaker at the July Artist talk Series 2016.
Juan has a Masters of Art, by research from RMIT in 2001. He has had many commissions both in Australia and overseas, He has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally and has won numerous awards and has been a finalist in the Archibald prize.
Juan’s work is highly detailedand meticulously executed exploring the themes of people, landscape and nature through painting, sculpture and installation. Juan’s work crosses various forms of creative approach, his essential core concern being mans’ impact on the environment.
Juan has used painting as an artform to push the boundaries of realist painting. He has taken the traditional mould of conservative realist painting as a stepping off point to change and transform traditional notions of Australian landscape, by showing that it can be just as relevant as cutting edge contemporary art. He wants to keep realist painting relevant but at the same time saying something about the landscape that will stir our imagination and infiltrate our consciousness about the current concerns of mans’ impact and degradation of the environmentand how humanity sits outside its environment, but believes it has absolute control over it.
Juan’s more recent works were inspired by a trip into the outback of Australia and his realisation of the enormity of the Australian landscape that sits behind the main population centres of Australia, an environment that many people never travel to see in their lifetime. In this setting he was challenged by how he could represent Australia in a different way from the iconic status that landscape painting had in Australia, historically. Juan took the older forms, some of the conventions of Australian painting; people (figuration), botanical themes and landscape and ‘slammed them together’, twisting, smashing and reinventing them- the hot sun, shadow, gum leaves, branches and drought.
The idea of the figure in the landscape and botany is bound up and takes on figurative dimensions, and of using found and recycled objects such as garbage and tape and the act of throwing paint suggesting the idea that we are compressing nature, that we can do whatever we like to nature, but it will continue.
In 2012 Juan exhibited ‘Lord of the Canopy’ at the Bendigo Visual Arts Centre Latrobe University- a massive eucalyptus tree installation.
‘Lord of the Canopy’ is a giant eucalyptus tree constructed flat, logs, branches, steel and acrylic paint fitted into the dimensions of the gallery space. The idea of rampant logging in our native forests is referenced but equally the installation is looking at mans’ intervention into the habitat of the small creatures which inhabit the tree canopy supported by the giant anamorphic painting ‘PossumRing’ (below) which corrects itself in the mirrored possum ring at the base of the tree.
In the The Melbourne NOW Exhibition at the NGV in 2013-14 Juan’s preoccupation with migration and overpopulation was explored in the interactive installation ‘You, Me and the Flock’ where he invited people of all ages to place a bird sticker onto a panoramic sky. With the addition of each bird the shape and movement is changed exploring the ideas of identity, cohesion, separation and alignment terms used to describe the behaviour off locking birds, but which can equally apply to human behaviours.
Juan has also been commissioned to paint portraits of significant Australians such as former Victorian State Premier John Brumby, Chancellors and Vice Chancellors of Universities and in 2014 the Portrait of Sir Isaac Isaacs commissioned by the Jewish museum but which now hangs in Parliament.
Hawthorn Artists Society would like to thank Juan Ford for an illuminating and insightful talk into his practice as a contemporary Australian artist.
Juan is represented by Dianne Tanzer Gallery Melbourne