Al Skaw - "Surprise Reprise"

Al Skaw - "Surprise Reprise"



We invite you to the vernissage of Al Skaw's latest compilation of figurative works in his exhibition Surprise Reprise. Join us and the artist himself at Wallack Galleries, November 15th from 6:30pm - 8:30pm.


All art is a journey. It takes us from somewhere to somewhere else, and what image engages us and entrances us more than that of our fellow human beings?  Whether that image is one that describes how we see others, how others see us or how we see ourselves, it has always taken us on a journey of reflection. From pre-history rock paintings of running men in central Australia, the nude figures of a human male and female inscribed on a plaque on board the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft, to the digital selfie on our pocket iPhone, images of ourselves define who we are and therefore have always been with us and always will.

This exhibition, Surprise Reprise, is my first figurative exhibition in several years.  The inspiration for this show of painting and drawing comes largely from the memory of past works of my own and the works of others. The development of any art form invariably uses artistic history and personal experience as inspiration for new ideas, approaches and concepts. That which has come before has always provided our society, and artists in particular with a generous seedbed for establishing new takes on how we view each other and ourselves. All memory, after all, good, bad, coherent, incoherent, sober or dissolute, inspires and creates the character that forms us individually and collectively as our society. It is altogether extremely surprising and occasionally overwhelming how the consequences of life decisions can alter our perceptions of ourselves and the world. Just as a poem that we read decades ago reads differently to us today, such is the way with visual art.  Whether big or small, all experiences are reframed later in life in a surprising new light which informs us where we have come from and provides us with a pathway to the future.



Al Skaw's involvement with art has been a life-long involvement, which has not only encompassed that of the practicing artist, but also that of the scholar. Skaw's dedication to the visual arts as a medium for exploring the world of thoughtful feeling is not only evidence in the works themselves. It is also evidenced in his commitment to education, his encyclopedic knowledge of the working practices, philosophies, theories, beliefs, and inspirations of those artists who have shaped our visual landscape and memory, and his propensity to engage in challenging debate concerning the nature of the arts and the essential role the arts play in defining a society.

What strikes one immediately on looking at Skaw's work is the quality of technique. His is a body of work that draws on the great traditions of painting in many ways, not least in learning from the techniques of previous generations in responding with care and patience to the idiosyncrasies and demands of the chosen medium. Skaw is not a prolific artist, producing approximately fifteen to twenty major paintings a year. This output is testimony to the preparation that precedes the creation of a work, preparation that involves the careful and methodical development of numerous small studies in which the problems of the painting are identified and resolved. Skaw's luminous use of colour arises from the practice of blending colours by under painting, a technique that is time consuming as it requires extended periods of time in which the layers of paint must dry before the next stage of the painting can be explored.

Invariably, we carry our history with us, and this influences interactions with our world both covertly and overtly. Skaw was born in Austria and spent his childhood living in Austria, France, Germany, the United States and he has recently moved to the country of his ancestors, Canada. Indeed, his home and studio today is only sixty miles from where his great-grandmother was born. This dramatic "homecoming" has had a stunning effect on his work, allowing us to view more clearly paintings accomplished over the past four decades and shown in major exhibitions in some of the finest galleries in Australia. Throughout his life he has moved between the "old world" of Europe and the "new world" of Australia, the United States and Canada. The recurring themes within Skaw's work of separation, isolation and regeneration perhaps reflect this modern day nomadic experience.

For nearly half a century, Skaw has shown a deep understanding and abiding love for the visual art form. Whilst his references are many, varied and global, I believe they reflect a view that art Begins when speech finally fails us. Al Skaw has always offered us the opportunity to observe and listen carefully to what art has to say to us.