Ron Quick The Art Effect

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Warrnambool artist Ron Quick explores a dynamic with light and shadow, colour and line in his work, creating paintings, prints and pastels that suggest an undercurrent or something hidden.

He describes himself as ‘an old traditional reactionary’ artist that still thinks ordinary old painting and drawing has a lot to say.

“Can you actually take some colour on a furry stick and make it do something that affects somebody - you can’t guarantee it, but someone may come along and think how did you do that?”, he said.

His work is held in many public gallery collections including the Warrnambool Art Gallery (WAG), National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), and the National Gallery of Australia.

In his early prints of still lives with everyday objects there is a tension in the shadows; in his landscapes the inference of something present but not seen, and in his paintings of a tutu or a skirt, the garments hang heavily, laden with stories in the shadowy folds and creases.

Ron said the work of numerous painters provides him with ways to link to the past. They reflect his interest in modernism and the surrealist notion that you can make art out of anything.

His works can echo the palette of the Italian artist Morandi, Di Chirico’s illogical perspectives and tension between light and shadow and Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro and luminosity.

“ If you look through some of my other work, Di Chirico is quite important - Still lives with Knives and Vegemite Jar is not that disconnected from the architectural and the tectonic and how the shadows form the space - they push a thing forward and pull some back and infer there is something not seen.”

He said this work suggests that if you can remove yourself from everything that is what is left. “In some ways the work was reserved, you could put a fulcrum underneath a tea towel and imagine it would balance, I always had an interest in gravity and it is still there,”

Ron likes the materiality of the stuff he uses to create work and likes to explore the discordant, often blasting the music of Richard Thompson in his studio to take him beyond the obvious. “I spend a bit of time putting down a couple of brushstrokes and seeing the way the colour works, and even though making work is incredibly slow they are a bit like Degas, it is hard to tell if they are painting and pastels or pastels and paintings,” he said

Sitting behind his work is a constant dialogue with much bigger ideas, the force of gravity, religious beliefs, human existence within given spaces and environmental issues.

“It is that visceral quality of the landscapes I am working on at the moment, I want to get a sense of getting lost in the landscape -you can find yourself meandering through the space, they comfort you and take you in.”

A keen bushwalker, Ron has often spent time in the wilds of Tasmania marvelling at the primeval landscapes and taking photos of strange ancient trees and shrubs stretched and flattened by the weather that will eventually appear in one of his paintings or pastels.

“There is a notion of transcendence, and until it transcends into something it doesn’t work - landscape may need to transcend into contemplation.” He explained it may have a lot to do with the fact we are walking, it is slow, there is a pace and a rhythm, a patination of movement that past day one or two, the body changes, carrying 25kg and not talking much.

This wild landscape can also instil disquiet. Ron describes being lost once on the Walls of Jerusalem, an area notorious for rapid changing weather patterns. Snow had fallen and he lost his bearings, he couldn’t find anyone or his pack and his heart began to race with fear.

“Perhaps my landscapes are about the transcendence of fear,” he said.

Ron has played an enormous part in the development of the WAG and the arts community in the South West region. He moved to Warrnambool in 1968 and joined the Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education (WIAE) in 1970, where he established a printmaking studio and continued to teach there and at Deakin University for 30 years.

“I used to talk to my students about the business of painting, the history goes back for 60,000 years - it is like an icebreaker pushing its way to the Antarctic, there is a wake that comes off the boat that piles back and piles back, you are part of that wake way back.”

He said South West artists Harley Manifold and Kathryn Ryan are among those who are creative because they know what is in front of them, they use what is there and can communicate in a contemporary language.

He said ultimately you paint in the studio and you hope that someone may come along and feel something unexpected and thank you for the effect. “Once I stood in front of the “Raft of the Medusa” (by Theodore Gericault) in the Louvre and my petite 16 year-old daughter stood next to me and swooned – that is the response you should have.”