In recent years painting has become somewhat of an antiquated notion within Melbourne's contemporary art scene. As the audience for installation, digital work and other forms of new media continues to grow, a return to the basics seems almost inevitable. Michael Staniak, of Paradise Hills Gallery, has been quietly working on High Definition for some time now, putting together an exhibition that draws on the work of 16 Australian artists – all of them painters – to examine the role the medium plays in the digital age.
It's refreshing to see an artist-run space like Paradise Hills embracing such a classic medium, but this exhibition is anything but traditional. The works have come from an incredibly diverse group of artists, ranging from the highly acclaimed, like Archibald Prize winner Sam Leach and Fletcher Jones Prize recipient Juan Ford, to the emerging generation, including Andre Piguet and 22-year-old Joseph Flynn.
As you'd expect, the work on display varies greatly – in scale, presentation and subject matter. In this minimalist gallery space the eye careens from the controlled chaos of Anthony Lister's frenetic brush strokes, then flits around the meticulous calm of Michael Peck's eerily rendered sepia crash scene, before finally finding rest in the hyper-modernity of Ry David Bradley's post-painterly meditation. Abstract explorations are bordered either side by photorealistic portraiture and surreal landscapes, yet somehow these strange bedfellows work with one another.
The exhibition offers an almost overwhelming variety of works, but the common thread that is the medium prevents the show from plunging into chaos. It's a risk to be seen as conservative in a city that so often strives for an avant-garde image, but High Definition not only meets the challenge of the digital age, it bests it. The sheer volume of talent and discipline on display in this exhibition is a testament to the fact that not only does contemporary painting have an established presence in Melbourne, its lineage shows no signs of abating any time soon.
High Definition opens at Paradise Hills Gallery tonight (May 6) at 6–9pm.