Best known for his meticulously detailed watercolours, Melbourne-born, Montreal-based artist Jackson Slattery is back home for his new show at Sutton Gallery. In Tunisian Parquetry, the artist serves up a collection of works that are at odds with the traditional approach to representational painting.

Slattery excels in making the smallest, most banal things extraordinary. He does this by representing everyday, commonplace objects with a realist approach and then applying to them a systematic process of abstraction, ultimately creating an unsettling atmosphere of entropy.

Two featured paintings, one depicting a lemon plunging into a pool of water, and the other, a stunningly detailed parquetry floor, explore the artist’s interest in two individuals whose tragic deaths sparked a social and political response.

The lemon represents Mohamid Bouzizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who inspired a wave of demonstrations and protests in December 2010 at the beginning of what is now known as The Arab Spring when he lit himself on fire.

The parquetry floor represents Len Bias, a college basketball player who died from a cocaine overdose two days after being drafted into the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft. Bias’s death, which happened at a party while celebrating, resulted in significant, statewide anti-drug laws, eventually expanding into the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. The basketball court at Celtics Stadium (now called TD Bank Garden) is famous for its beautiful parquetry floor.

Slattery has said that although Bouzizi and Bias are historically unrelated, these paintings, and these two men are connected because of the impact their deaths had on history and society.

In Sutton's main gallery, a sparse series of paintings depict hands in a gentle mid gesture, all sourced from a video in which the artist was engaged in a number of conversations about the connections between his source imagery and the visual material he'd chosen to paint.

Some works explore Slattery's own approach to painting and what he describes as the "conceptual scaffolding" of his practice. These works represent a belief about representation painting: the belief in its truth, its self-activity, and its vitality as an art form.

Tunisian Parquetry shows at Sutton Gallery until March 8.

suttongallery.com.au