Inner Sydney artist Adrian Lockhart may not live near the ocean, but his love of surfing and drawing sees him travel to Manly every week to catch a wave and sketch the people on the beach. Now he has travelled to Geelong, not for a surf (although a trip to Torquay is on the itinerary), but for the opening of his exhibition ‘Coastal’, a collection of over thirty-five works on paper, at Metropolis Gallery.
Adrian Lockhart, Surf Figure I, 2011, mixed media on paper, 30 x 21 cm. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Lockhart’s appreciation for the beauty of the human form and the changing moods of the ocean are reflected in his seaside-themed pictures. Using expressive lines that flow like the tides and a minimal palette of soft washes, Lockhart conjures the relaxed atmosphere of a day by the sea with sensual figures that languidly wade in the water, stroll along the shoreline and sunbake on the sand.
“I go to the beach and either remember that experience in the water and do a quick drawing when I get home, or I sit on the beach and draw figures and other surfers,” Lockhart says. Of special interest to him is the movement of the wading figure, a subject he has been working with for a few years.
“There’s a way people go into the water. When they enter the water, there’s a freshness, the way they sort of dance. It’s very poetic. It’s like ballet.”
The bathing figure has long held a fascination for artists, from Rembrandt to Picasso. Perhaps most well known are Cezanne’s numerous bathing pictures and Lockhart references one of them, Trois Baigneuses from the Musée d’Orsay, in his mixed media work Three Bathers (After Cezanne).
Adrian Lockhart Three Bathers (After Cezanne), 2011, mixed media on paper, 150 x 100cm . Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Lockhart is inspired by a long list of artists but he says he has a particular interest in works that tend towards abstraction. Of Australian artists he cites the etchings of Fred Williams and the earlier, semi-abstract of works of Brett Whiteley as influences.
“I am not an abstract artist but sometimes I like to reduce my work down to an almost abstract simplicity,” he says “I try to distil my work down to lines and bring it to a very simple state. I try to find a few lines to say a lot.”
Adrian Lockhart, Four Bathers, 2011, mixed media on paper, 100 x 150 cm. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
In his deliberations to capture the essence of movement and form, he dispenses with details such as facial features. This pared-back approach gives his work some ambiguity and a sense of mystery. Who are these people and what are they doing? What are the relationships between these people?
Last year Lockhart exhibited at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery, where he had the opportunity to add a sculptural piece to his solo show. Given his love of surfing, surfboards seemed the obvious choice and he is now including them in his art practice. Using charcoal, pencil and acrylics, Lockhart paints onto the gessoed foam board before a professional boardmaker adds a layer of fibreglass. Several painted surfboards are on display in the Coastal exhibition depicting figures of sensual simplicity.
While drawing is a big part of Lockhart’s work, this prolific artist also paints contemplative still lifes and seascapes in oils. His delicately rendered interior paintings exude a Morandi-like stillness through the subtle gradations of light and shade. Whether he is using paint, print and charcoal, Lockhart appreciates each one for its own special qualities and doesn’t like to confine himself to any one medium. Just as he gets edgy if the surf is flat for too long, Lockhart becomes restless if he stops drawing and painting.
“I do wonder what it is all about, why I do it,” Lockhart says. “I just know that when I am not doing it I am very unsettled. It is something I have to do or I’d go crazy. I’m passionate and I don’t know where that passion comes from. It is just something that you either have or you don’t. For me, I have to do it.”
Lockhart studied art at Launceston Technical College, Tasmania and eventually moved to Sydney to work in graphic design while he continued to paint. He became a full time practicing artist in the mid-eighties and since then he has held solo shows nearly every year. He has been a finalist in numerous awards including the Kedumba Drawing Award (three times), Mosman Art Prize in 1996, Dobell Drawing Prize in 2006, and the Adelaide Perry Drawing Prize in 2011.
Adrian Lockhart’s drawings and prints are on exhibition at Metropolis Gallery until 19 November 2011. You can view more images of his work at www.metropolisgallery.com.au