Big boys exhibit their artistic talent

01:03, Sep 05 2012
Blokes biennale
ON SHOW: John Rudge, left, John Caldwell, William Gordon, and Ken Laws in front of a pigment print by Gordon as they set up the Blokes Biennale at the McKee Gallery in the Suter.

There's the Venice Biennale, the Biennale of Sydney, the Berlin Biennial, but art lovers may have yet to discover the Blokes Biennale - right here in Nelson.

John Caldwell, William Gordon, David Kemp, Ken Laws, John Rudge and Ross Whitlock are the stars of the inaugural biennale at the McKee Gallery.

The group show opened yesterday, and carries on until September 16.

Caldwell focuses on boats and the sea in his works, which have mostly been painted "en plein air" or, put simply, outside.

"The sun is moving all the time, so shadows are changing. The light is changing too.

"To get the painting done in a reasonable time means painting small and painting quickly," he says.


Rudge's works are a respectful tribute to early cave artists, who used charcoal and simple earth pigments to record animals and events on the walls of their caves and rock shelters.

"The purpose of these earliest examples of graphic art is uncertain. They may represent the beginnings of human rituals and belief systems or simply celebrate the joy of making art," he says.

Whitlock, another plein air painter, has created a poem that goes with his works - The Plein Air Painter in Winter.

"The plein air painter is a man of many parts, and most of them are standing in the rain.

"Eschewing the comfort of the studio arts, his fearless hand ignores the frequent pain,” it starts.

Then there's Ken Laws, who turns flat sheets of steel into works of art.

Laws uses a dated panelbeating technique, these days only used by people who restore old cars.

He uses a dollie along with a flat-surfaced panelbeater's planishing hammer to create shapes and lines.

Laws says his works in the McKee Gallery exhibition are a collection of figurative and symbolic pieces.

“As with all my art there is a meaning behind each piece, but at the same time it is open to the viewer's own interpretation.

"I always enjoy hearing how people connect with a piece,” he says.

Kemp's artworks are based on the reflections he observes on a daily basis in the pond outside his studio.

“Rather than convey exactly what is seen, I have tried to use the images as an opportunity to explore colour and form, while still maintaining the peaceful nature of the original scene,” he says.

Gordon, a photographer, has created a five-panel reconstruction of a Dodge Charger muscle car. He says the large artwork, at almost three-metres wide, is the “apotheosis of every bloke or petrol-head's wildest imaginings”. The pigment print transposes an original image into something that is neither photograph nor painting, “but has the elusive quality of both”.