The title of Andrew Browne’s new exhibition is taken from the Neil Young/Crazy Horse epic 'Down by the river’, an evocative song of longing and tragedy - part murder ballad and part meandering free-form rock-out.
The same could be said of the seven paintings that make up the show: melancholic yet strangely beautiful.
A Riverbank (culvert, detritus and apparitions) is a tour de force. A nine-metre-long landscape, it brings a number of disparate images together to create an immersive space, its horizontal flow echoing that of the river and ending with a logjam of accumulated material.
While much of Browne's previous work has been imbued with a sense of foreboding, Down by the river shows the reverse: the aftermath of a chaos that now sweeps through his canvases.
‘Maybe these paintings are partly an ode to the troubled environment’, says Andrew Browne, as well as ‘a formal investigation of the banal.’
The river of my ‘Down by the river’ isn’t a specific place but a distillation of a number of places - real, imagined and contrived. In some paintings the river is only hinted at, as if the viewer has turned his back on it to get a closer view of some detail or those accumulations of various matter that have found at least a temporary resting place or foothold.
One painting depicts a balloon snagged in an eddy of floating detritus. ‘It strikes me,’ says Browne, ‘as full of pathos. That usually celebratory (or at least sentimental) object fated to drift, wrenched from its usual ‘happy’ context becomes a banal form memorialised in its damp fate!'
These paintings continue a focus on inner-city waterways, marginal spaces and the peripheral. Whereas typical scenes of riverbanks and suburban waterways are often presented as pleasant idylls and places of quiet reverie, the images here suggest a sense of anxiety, displacement and blurring of forms; of tranquil environs transformed by troubled and contingent relationships.
Lair is the wild card in the exhibition, a startling trompe l'oeil painting depicting a hoarding kicked through to expose an evil smiley face. With detritus, moss and a general dampness at its base it suggests a canal edge with perhaps a verdant landscape beyond. Down by the river reveals a painter in his prime – an artist who encourages us to drift down the waterway of urban reality. Down by the river continues Andrew Browne’s ongoing interest in natural and built environments. It flows out of Horizon, his recent survey show at Gippsland Art Gallery.
104 Exhibition Street, Level 4
+61 3 9654 6000
+61 3 9654 7000 (Fax)
Tues - Frid, 10am - 5pm
Sat, 1pm - 5pm