Qdos Arts Lorne
7 January - 20 January 2018
This exhibition of 27 oil paintings by Richard Manning is two years in the making but its subject matter - the natural world of the Great Ocean Road area has been in the artist’s psyche for much longer.
For the past 16 years Richard lived part time in Kennett River. Taking his camera to the nearby beaches, inlets, falls and forests he would come across a site, a place where he’d ‘find the moment, the spark’ and return to his studios, one at home and another in Melbourne, work and re-work the image, first as a drawing and then on canvas.
All his works are intense images of the natural world, although there are striking images in this new exhibition contrasting man made intrusions in the landscape. Outsized rocks, barrelling water, impenetrable forests seen in blues, greys, greens, and flickers of orange. The world he paints is based in reality, but the image the viewer finally sees is his ‘emotional memory of the moment; it’s bigger than the reality,’ he explains. ‘I respond to nature in a romantic way, a poetic way.’
His previous two exhibitions, also shown at Qdos Arts, explored the Great Ocean Road but with each exhibition his ambitions have grown. He has, if you like, created a grander vision. Richard has painted two large-scale diptychs for this exhibition, one of water gushing over the scarred rocks at Carisbrook Creek and the other of the kinetic Sheoak Falls. He was motivated to attempt these works after a road trip through Big Sur in California and then encountering paintings of the Niagara Falls in the grand tradition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
All the works in this new show were painted at his studio in St Kilda, a large industrial space he shares with several other artists. It’s a long way from the bruising, crashing coast beyond Lorne. Working quietly in a small, closed-off corner of the old factory, he spent two to three months on each canvas often painting several at the same time.
‘I start with a drawing then build a finished work. I start, re-start, re-work and scrape
away. I always make myself work harder than I need to’ he says. Given Richard’s
solitary immersion in the world of each of his paintings it’s surprising to learn that he worked in other art forms including video art over recent years. ‘It wasn’t for me’ he says of the intrusions of speed, codes and equipment on his creativity. He now prefers the ‘immediacy and honesty of paint’ but sees a connection between the two art forms.
‘When I think about my paintings I see them as a storyboard, my story.’
Raymond Gill is editor and publisher of dailyreview.com.au December 2017