Posted by anca in Articles, Blog

By Oscar Capezio

Some people are hopeless at discerning irony. Others are a little slow to arrive at the inference. It all depends on an ability to recognise the situation, the context and the attitude of the messenger – or in this case, the artist. As a form of fiction irony can be seductive, playing on our yearning for the truly real, a real tease that people might find frivolous, amusing, or basically annoying. But while we might choose not to play into the illusion, we may already be implicated in it. Hence it’s right to be suspicious. It’s right to question the presumption of innocence; to ask how we “act as if mischief were not afoot in the kingdom of the real and that all around the ground lay firm” (Michael Taussig, 1993: xviii).

So what is it about Rowan Kane’s paintings that situates us in this “silly if not desperate place” between the world of the real and the really made-up? Is he serious or is he acting-up? Would he, could he ever come clean. Personally, I wish for some slight wink of recognition, even though it might never be disclosed, no matter how familiar we are or how closely I examine his set of painterly mannerisms: soft solid colours, flat matte surfaces, bright impasto lines, the brush running dry, a drip (with another the same beside it), a littering of other ostensible “accidents” which attends to his process of painting abstractions. Call it, “pseudo-virtuosity”, or “Everything in Quotes” (à la Virgil Abloh). The brilliance is not blinding, though it implies there is a problem.

Everything is blooming to a feeling for the fake, seeking a stylization that conquers all content, hungering for the picturesque, some décor, a sweeping curve – all the elements of a serenely ordered illusion. By way of such consistency, Kane’s paintings kindle our desire to slip beyond the boundaries of our home. Showing-off their market appeal (their house-bound qualities), they take our hand in a most polite fashion…Charmed, thank you. Is that unashamed fantasy, or is that just deadpan guiltlessness? Perhaps a kind of seriousness that can’t be taken all too seriously, as Susan Sontag would have it: it’s “too much”, it’s all a little “off”. Surely it is artifice that renders the content – a pear, or some pears, a pair of flowers atop two figures, wax-sticks with tips ablaze – zero. It might be – “good because it’s awful…Of course, one can’t always say that.” (Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp, 1962).

Rowan Kane is alive to the double sense of Camp. Like a dandy he appears unaffected by worldly vicissitudes. He is an artist and painter from Canberra, where he completed his studies at the Painting Workshop of the ANU School of Art & Design, graduating with First Class Honours in 2015. This exhibition at Ivy Hill Gallery (Bermagui, NSW South Coast) is the artist’s second solo exhibition, presenting a concise body of brightly formed canvases. These aspire to a form of culture that is truly false in being genuinely made-up: they are… FANTASTIC!


SEPT. 2018


Image: Rowan Kane, ‘The Bathers’, 2018. oil on canvas, 115 x 140 cm. Photo by Brenton McGeachie.




27 September to 4 November 2018

Drinks with the artists Saturday 29 September from 5pm


1795 Tathra to Bermagui Road Wapengo

Open Thursday to Sunday 10 – 5pm