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.