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Waterfront Festival

Exhibition Review: 'The Magical Four' at Fletcher Gate Art Gallery

29 April 22 words: George Dunbar

'The Magical Four', a group show currently on display at Fletcher Gate Art Gallery, offers a look at the works of four painters, each with their own unique style.

The Fletcher Gate Art Gallery is currently presenting a group show called The Magic Four, featuring the artists Tom Voyce, Arny Schmit, Viktor Rebernak and Giuliano Cardella. All four of these artists are from top art academies around the world. Out of these artists, Tom Voyce's work features especially strongly. His series of paintings entitled In Transit is a highlight of the show.

When approaching the gallery from outside, the first artworks that are visible are a few of Viktor Rebernak’s paintings on display in the window. One painting in particular; Curious Love (2021), features figures of doctors and medical people in a hospital setting, with an ethereal dream like aesthetic. The work appears quite poignant in a time of COVID-19 restrictions when we all have our minds on health care issues. The doctors almost appear like guardian angels in an other-worldly setting and the title is very curious in this way, asking us what kinds of things we should love and value in society. Rebernack’s work bears a similarity to other members of The Magic Four collective. The artists Arny Schmit and Giuliano Cardella have work displayed that has a similar dream like quality to it. These artists use paint in a thick, densely applied manner. In this way the work has raw physicality to it, with a skin like finish. This gives layers to the work, both in terms of meaning, and also in the physicality of paint. While touching on themes of society and healthcare, the paintings have a more esoteric and deeper quality to them, touching at deeper subliminal and subconscious thoughts.

Viktor Rebernak, 'Curious Love'. Oil on Canvas. Image courtesy of Fletcher Gate Art Gallery.

Tom Voyce is a young artist and was the winner of the Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year in 2017. This is the second time his work has featured at the gallery. He is known for his bright, realistic paintings of landscapes and cityscapes. His series In Transit features scenes of airports, railway stations, roads and bridges and other places of transit; this is why it is named as such.

His work speaks of time and place and architectural form. He blurs the boundaries between the representational nature of painting a scene, and the act of constructing a scene by painting it. The strong, solid straight lines in his work that plot the precise perspective lines and form of buildings have the result of turning the entire scene into one large construct.

...the paintings have a more esoteric and deeper quality to them, touching at deeper subliminal and subconscious thoughts.

There is a formal quality of studying the elements of composition in his work. It also very much has a romantic side to it. It speaks of time and place, and captures little fleeting moments in scenes; the light falling on a building or the shadows cast over motor way flyovers. This sense of time is also felt in the warm glowing colours he chooses to use, which have a nostalgic quality. With the amber glowing light of the sun, the long shadows, and classic urban scenes, he captures the imagination and make the viewer reminisce on places they could have visited in days gone by. 

Tom Voyce’s style appears to have a strong resemblance to the work of the early 20th century American artist Edward Hopper. In fact, there is a book about Hopper’s paintings in the gallery nearby. Hopper was intensely interested in architecture, and captured the way that architecture could frame a scene as well as any picture frame could. He also was able to capture little moments in life in an almost cinematic way, with all the drama and mood captured in one frame. Voyce’s work also emerges from the American Modernism of the 1960’s where artists like Diebenkorn and De Kooning tried to capture the visual experience of the three-dimensional world into the concept of flat painting. His work has an American feel to it in this way, but he goes beyond the ‘American Master’ because his work has a different abstract quality to it.

Tom Voyce, 'House in Brisbane', 2019. Oil on Board. Image courtesy of Fletcher Gate Art Gallery.

His paintings are like post cards from trips, this plays to the theme of In Transit. Post cards are like mementos and his work very much has a reflective, dream like feel to it. This addresses the question of why someone might choose to paint a scene. For Voyce, it is about capturing a moment or feeling in a particular time and place. He reminds us of how places have a special feeling attached to them, both in terms of their ambiance and general appearance, but also as somewhere with specific memories attached to it. In this way, Voyce's work goes beyond mere representation of a scene, he instead wants to capture a feeling of time, place and memory and share that with the viewer.

[Voyce] reminds us of how places have a special feeling attached to them, both in terms of their ambiance and general appearance, but also as somewhere with specific memories attached to it.

The show has a self awareness to it, with a reflection on its own constructed qualities, but it also brings a self awareness to the viewer, and this is its merit. It raises questions of where we are as a society, and how we judge ourselves. It left numerous hanging questions to reflect upon. Questions about how we might think about the time we have spent during COVID-19 restrictions, questions of what our values are as a society and the deeper personal question of how we are to reflect upon memories. Tom Voyce ties memories to places, but of course, many people have not been able to travel, so Voyce's work perhaps suggests a way of using mementos like post cards or physical objects to tie memories to. Introspection has certainly been a dominant psychological state during lockdowns, and the work has touched upon this very strongly so is very timely and profound. Many people have built memories within social media and the imagery involved in that. As art galleries open again, we are asked to reflect on this and are also able to reconnect with the physical world and its real imagery.

The Magic Four is currently on view at Fletcher Gate Art Gallery.

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