Ambiguous Topography       

by Timothy Morrell             

Bruce Reynolds now lives in Brisbane, the most haphazardly designed city Australia, but he comes from Canberra, one of the most meticulously planned cities in the world. The randomness of Brisbane has sharpened his awareness of the logic in Walter Burleigh Griffin’s master plan for the national capital. The streetscape that has defeated so many bewildered interstate motorists was carefully conceived to express the shape of the terrain.

The order that we try to impose on a freely formed world is the key principle of civilization.  This has led to the belief that nature and culture are inevitably the opposites of each other. This way of thinking is now coming unravelled for a couple of reasons. Firstly, so much of the imposed order has been catastrophic, especially in ecological terms. Secondly, there’s been so much tinkering with the world that it’s no longer possible to say what’s natural anyway. Canberra’s ambiguous topography, a synthesis of the organic and the geometric, has deeply affected the way Reynolds views the landscape.

He photographed his home town from above for this exhibition, floating over its concentric circles and radiating avenues in a hot air balloon. Previously he had taken photographs of the Tasmanian landscape from elevated vantage points, and some of them have been used in his current work. It is the Canberra pictures, however, which best lend themselves to the morphing together of natural and manufactured forms that is central to nearly everything he makes.  

Photography has long been an important aspect of his work, but Reynolds is probably better known for making objects veneered with cracked and elderly pieces of linoleum. In this exhibition the two main areas of his art-making have been more thoroughly integrated than ever before. The works were made by using a large flatbed printer to reproduce photographs on panels of lino.

These linoleum photographs are systematically based on theories of nature vs culture, but the results have the irrational randomness of a dream. Our view ebbs and flows between two realities. Details from the lino patterns merge with the photographed landscape, so that ornamental floral borders sprout from a sandy beach, giant roses bloom in eucalypt trees and cracks appear on the face of the earth. 

Canberra is generally regarded as a very strange place. The city’s strangeness is all-too easily regarded as funny, but its particular kind of unreality has taught Reynolds to see everything as not being quite what it seems.



Winners Announced, Stan and Maureen Duke, Gold Coast Art Prize 2008

Judge Lynne Seear has selected Brisbane based artist Bruce Reynolds as the winner of the $10,000 Prize. His work, Certainty is also acquired for the Gold Coast City Art Gallery collection.

Judge Lynne Seear commented  -“  this is a a beautifully executed work, from his well-known series of lino paintings.  Reynolds has had one of the most consistent careers in contemporary Australian art as a practitioner and educator, and his works are held in major public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery and the Museum of Brisbane. A much earlier work by Bruce Reynolds came into the Gold Coast City Art Gallery Collection via the art prize in 1989 but Certainty represents this senior artist at his painterly best. As befits the medium, it is a modest but intensely evocative work, one that engages the viewer on a human level, but is also intelligently connected to the contested histories of modernism and abstraction.”

Bruce Reynolds was born in Canberra in 1955 and studied at Canberra School of Art and Victorian College of Art. He has lectured in Painting , Photography Intermedia and Interdisciplinary art practices at Queensland College of Art since 1986 and has been an influential teacher for many students at both the Brisbane and Gold Coast campus of QCA. He has been awarded the Australia Council Studio in Los Angeles in 1995 and an Arts Queensland Grant for a publication and exhibition at the Institute of Modern Art n 2000. He is represented by Ryan Renshaw Gallery Brisbane.