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Richard Blundell

Review: New Horizons - Paintings By Denis Brockie exhibition

Held 2 - 10 January 2015, in The Headland Room, of the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel, Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island, Australia

Reviewer statement on New Horizons

Denis Brockies 2015 exhibition, New Horizons, is a delight to the senses. What is immediately evident in this exhibition is the level of mastery that Denis Brockie has as a representational landscape painter.

This exhibition reminds the viewer of how seamlessly a good painter can fuel human attachment and kindle connections to place. The refined painting technique and the careful observation that is at the heart of this exhibition explains why Denis Brockies paintings have gained appreciative audiences and awards for more than a decade.

Denis Brockies paintings are immersive and seductive. With few exceptions, each painting has an immediacy that gives easy access to the qualities and character of three definable environments - North Stradbroke Island, Queenslands Granite Belt, and the Great Dividing Range. These places are clearly deeply important to the artist.

That Denis Brockie has lived and painted for many years in these environments goes some way in explaining the skilful combination of warm intimacy and detached pragmatism that Brockie brings to these subjects. The spontaneous appeal of Denis Brockies subjects and his preference for representational approaches may seduce some viewers into underestimating the scope of Brockies creative engagement and capacities.

To demonstrate this point requires a more complex and mature analysis of Denis Brockies  paintings. Chaos Evolving #2 is one of three paintings that amply demonstrate the point that Brockies creative engagement has the scope to go beyond one single approach or style and the works show a place or places channeled through the artists inner eye but without recourse to direct mimicry. These non-representational paintings are powerful statements about landscape as a state of mind while still remaining outstanding and fully-formed works about environment.

When these abstracted paintings are exhibited alongside paintings of glowing sunshine and sweeping expanses of pristine beaches, an audience knows that Brockies paintings are the stuff of wellness. Conversely, Brockies Granite Belt and Great Dividing Range paintings are coolly detached, evidencing a kind of raw empiricism reminiscent of paintings produced by Eugene von Guerard between 1852 until 1882. These variations in approach go a long way in highlighting the breadth of Brockies creative range as well as how and why landscape painting continues to make an important contribution in the formation of self-awareness and national identity in Australia.

There is a simple but important argument: landscape paintings by Arthur Streeton, Russell Drysdale, Hans Heysen, Albert Namatjira, Fred Williams, and William Robinson allow us to circle very specific locations on a map of Australia. This is evidence that Australian landscape painting is always about regions and highlights the importance and relevance of contemporary theories like Bioregionalism through which we seek to understand and explain the significance and value of Denis Brockies creative practice to our community.

By working at the edges of his creative concerns, Denis Brockie signals a preparedness to take risks. This is a mark of a painter with authenticity. To the degree that today all utterances about the environment divide communities, Brockies concern for accuracy and truthful representation speaks convincingly of strongly favouring attachment to the natural environment. So, while Denis Brockies paintings look to address interests in the sublime and the picturesque and therefore avoid controversy, there is a willingness to remain alert and restless. This no small thing.

Richard Blundell

Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University

15 January 2015

Dr Anthony White                                                                         Margaret Shields