Out/About: Robert Malherbe ‘Resist the spirit of the times’
Blackheath Landscape, 2014
oil on linen, 91 x 71 cm
Finalist Wynne Prize 2015 (AGNSW)
Govett’s Leap, 2013
oil on linen, 91.5 x 122 cm
Finalist Wynne Prize 2013 (AGNSW)
Still Life on Bookshelf, 2011
oil on linen, 61 x 50.8 cm
Still Life with Ranunculus, 2014
oil on linen, 50 x 40 cm
Woman in Black Coat, 2015
oil on linen, 91 x 71 cm.
Winner Manning Art Prize 2015
Collection Manning Regional Art Gallery
Interior with nude & mirror, 2006
oil on linen, 66 x 55.5 cm
Woman in the Landscape, 2006
oil on linen
83.5 x 71 cm
oil on wood
60 x 50 cm
Photography: Jenni Carter
We featured the work of Robert Malherbe in In/Out in 2014 and as a testament to his continuing success he has been given the honour of a major survey exhibition at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre that opens on April 30 and runs until early June. This provides a unique opportunity to track the progression of this truly dedicated painter with over thirty works that span twelve years of artmaking. Never wanting to tie himself to an overriding theme Malherbe opts for a collection of works that easily skip between still life, portraiture, the nude and landscape and in a pointed gesture against present trends he has titled the show ‘Resist the Spirit of the Times’.
This is a well-chosen phrase for Malherbe (who explains that it has long been a personal mantra for him) as he persistently marches to the beat of his own drum; preferring the tutelage of European masters of the 20th Century like Soutine and Auerbach to the ever shifting trends of the contemporary art world. He paints quickly, sometimes distilling the scene with a few bold strokes and the resulting works have a freshness that holds one key to his continuing appeal. However you cannot underestimate the sophistication that lies in these marks, Malherbe knows his medium and every factor of the composition is both amazingly intricate and carefully considered.
Yet accuracy is not Malherbe’s central motivation, he endeavours to say something deeply personal and there is an intimacy that is convincingly transferred via paint. As he explains “I’ve always painted the same way, directly from life. What I’m after is nailing down personal experience; those things that are around you that will vanish when you go”. As a result, landscapes are charged by abstracted diagonals that cut the composition and direct the eye, colours are saturated to show an unabated joy in what is being portrayed and the sometimes ungainly pose of a nude powerfully demonstrates Malberbe’s creative independence.
Often survey shows (or retrospectives) come too late in an artist’s career with many decades of output to crystallise in one exhibition but ‘Resist the Spirit of the Times’ comes when Malherbe is in full flight and being staged in the heart of the region that he has called home for more than a decade. If the trip up to the glorious Blue Mountains convinces you that you’d like a Robert Malherbe in your collection then Jan Murphy Gallery has the next commercial offering opening mid June.
Robert Malherbe ‘Resist the spirit of the times’
Blue Mountains Cultural Centre
30 Parke Street,
Katoomba, NSW 2780
30 April – 5 June 2016
Robert Malherbe ‘In a brighter light’
Jan Murphy Gallery
486 Brunswick St,
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
14 June – 9 July 2016
Credits: Images Courtesy of the artist Robert Malherbe
Words by Katrina Arent