Max Berry Explores and Experiments with "Landscapes" @ China Heights Gallery, Sydney
From ink-wash painting prized by the Chinese and Japanese artists, cloudy seascapes of the Dutch Masters, the glorification of nature in Romanticism all the way to the Hudson River School, landscape art has been popular with both the practitioners and the public. Certainly, the abundance of reference imagery around us offers countless possibilities of composition and depictions that can be comfortably approachable or steeped in mystery beyond the horizon. This relationship between the familiar and the unknown is especially interesting to the painter Max Berry, who will be opening his upcoming presentation at China Heights gallery in his hometown of Sydney on June 26th.
"Selections are a mix of repetition and opportunism," Berry told Juxtapoz when we asked about the process of selecting scenery. “I collect unassuming and otherwise banal locations, hoping, in time or hindsight, they will convey their power." Through a practice of mindful observation, the artist is especially fond of the accidental discoveries he finds on a daily basis, and with careful rumination, he relishes turning his visual treasures into compositions. "Once you begin working on a painting, and it begins to unravel, you can discover new things and new relationships—colors, shapes, and shadows. Quickly you surpass your original focus and explore new territory. The art critic Yves Alain-Bois said ‘the game of painting has no endpoint,’ and I’m glad it's that way."
Berry looks for locations and then reimagines locations to evoke an emotional response. Using the non-verbal language of shapes or colors, his scenes carry a significance that exists without a larger context, mostly inducing melancholy or longingness. Without explaining the source or the narrative around, these familiar, yet unusual renderings of mostly rural environments become marks of a personal moment or a compelling memory. While sourced from previous real-life encounters, the scenes reveal themselves in the process. As for the after-studio life, "I like to think that paintings can be a friend, playing an active role in your life, keeping you company, and helping you along, something that can be there for you; a humble but continual influence."
On a technical level, Berry uses the painting medium as a filter for his fantasies and makes the visuals in polished, voluminous shapes, fashioning the location in an almost plasticine-like setting. "Landscapes, ones with earth, bugs, and smells, affect the mind in profound ways. They have the power to become the room you’re in, like the imaginative potential of a book," he tells us about his relationship with actual, existing places he's visited. "I will be satisfied if ever I’m able to capture some of this magic." The amorphous forms define treetops, clouds, boulders, while resolute use of subdued colors successfully creates the play of light and shadow, as well as builds a sense of depth. With all the objects, including the man made structures, appearing soft and smooth on the surface, his imagery is pleasant, dreamy, and you’re welcome to join. —Sasha Bogojev