Richard Gunning

Interior Paintings

5 - 26 October 2003

  • Richard Gunning is one of the most collectable of the remarkable group of figurative painters, who emerged in Perth during the 1980’s. They were concerned with the facts of day-to-day life, in a rapidly changing environment. They drew their imagery from a comfortable, soft–centred bohemianism, still very much part of the Perth scene, and the traditional atmospherics and mystique of the artist’s studio, as popularised by Matisse and other great moderns. They emphasised the pursuit of technique, almost as an end in itself, when this was little valued.
    By the time of Ballroom 1995, an image of his studio/residency at the time Gunning had already consolidated these themes with a unique technique that sustains a magical silken daylight throughout canvas. This quietly intense presence evolved in Studio Visit 1999 and in a series of table-top and chair-top still lives such as Blue Table 1998 a painterly subject with impeccable modernist associations from Cezanne to Matisse.
    Like his mentors Gunning reworks the same domestic motif over time. The black and white, conte and charcoal Drawing for Blue Table 2000, from his current exhibition,. demonstrates his obsession with crowded compositions, which present a complex challenge to any artist obsessed with figuration. Moreover, as Cezanne found, they raise fundamental questions for both artist and viewer about the presence of each object, its role in daily life and memory.
    Presence is the subject in Michele and Jurek's Place 2000 (oil on linen 45 x 40 cm), a view of the kitchen of some artist friends a composition from Dutch seventeenth century genre painters. The back door of the empty room swings open. A small dog is silhouetted against the sunlight streaming through it. Gunning’s technique, however, now leans towards the momentary visual anecdote commonly found Bonnard. The blue jug on the table exists asi no more than three strokes in two tones of blue and white, in the single intense moment before its owners return.
    Since his student days Gunning has maintained a taste for low profile surrealism, a romantic magic reality that echoes Friedrich but also de Chirico. He fills New Room 2003 (oil on linen 71 x 61 cm), with a unobstructed volume of clear light, invoked solely by the shadows on its walls. Gunning’s robust but sensitive work is eminently collectible.

  • Dr. David Bromfield
  • For Australian Art Collector Summer 2003

Studio Interior 2001
Oil on Linen
119 x 130 cm
Acquired Private Collection



Window with Easel 2000
Oil on Canvas
105 x 62 cm

Collection: City of Wanneroo


New Room 2003
Oil on Linen
71 x 61 cm

Acquired Central Metropolitan College of T.A.F.E.Collection


Studio Corner with Flowers 2000
Oil on Panel
66 x 61 cm
Acquired Private Collection


Michele and Jurek's Place 2003
Oil on Linen
45 x 40 cm

Acquired Private Collection


Study for Studio Interior 2001
Oil on Linen
40 x 43.5 cm
Acquired Private Collection


Wheelock Way Interior 2001
Oil on Linen
40.5 x 40.5 cm
Acquired Private Collection


Wheelock Way Interior No2 2002
Oil on Linen
61 x 61 cm

Acquired Central Metropolitan College of T.A.F.E. Collection


View of Kitchen and Studio 2003
Oil on Panel
42 x 59.5 cm
$ 2,200
Acquired Private Collection



Wheelock Way View 2002
Oil on Linen
40 x 35 cm.



Studio Visit No 2 2000
Oil on Canvas
38 x 30 cm

Collection: The Artist


Drawing for The Blue Table 2002
Charcoal and Conte on paper
87.5 x 70 cm
Acquired Private Collection


Studio Window Study 1999
Oil on Paper
48 x 28 cm
Acquired Private Collection

  • Richard Gunning's paintings reveal an intense interest in the aesthetic possibilities of the interior spaces of studio and home. Focus is upon the value and integrity of ordinary objects within these settings-a shoe, ladder, chair, fruit, flowers. In the works (whether scrutinising a few objects or an entire room) concentration is upon variety of surface texture and compositional balance, aided by the unifying (and often dramatic) effects of colour and light.
  • Beyond an exposition of technical virtuosity, these paintings suggest a considerable interest in the nature of illusion and construction of the visible world in painting. The various images of Gunning's studio interior can be read as a series which moves between concurrent desires to reveal and conceal. The Studio Visit (1999) depicts a wide view of the artist's workspace, detailed and partially reorganised aspects of which are presented in other works. In the space of the studio objects are exposed in varying states-doors are left open and closed, a mirror reflects other aspects of the room, fabric swathes table and chairs, and curtains are pushed back to glimpse a world outside-so that what is not revealed in one work might be understood in another. Renderings of existing studio paintings also appear as objects within particular works. In White Chair with Painting (1999) the microcosmic world of a still life with chair, jacket, sneakers, take-away coffee cup and shell is combined with a studio interior study propped upon the shoes, revealing aspects of the larger environment in which the objects in the painting 'reside'.
  • Gunning's work continually oscillates between an austerity and economy in the use of objects (Chair with Peach Painting, 1999) and almost exaggerated combinations of the ephemera of everyday life (The Blue Table, 1998). The abundance of items collected in the latter image is almost a parody of the Dutch still life tradition in which objects appear delicately balanced just prior (it seems) to their inevitable disintegration. The potentially chaotic effects of such an assortment is, however, entirely avoided as disparate elements are unified through the use of strong colour and dramatic lighting. Concentration upon the effects of light also transforms this amalgam into a group of objects with significant aesthetic value, to be approached with some reverie.
  • Although the artist does not present himself in these studio and domestic interiors, his presence is consistently inferred in the precious objects revealed and spaces inhabited daily. This adds a highly imaginative dimension to the viewer's act of looking. Narratives within and without the picture frame are suggested despite an almost absolute lack of human presence in the works. When a figure is added (as in the Studio Visit, 1999) the individual is shown as thoroughly absorbed with pictures on a pin board. Her presence does not deflect from the real action of the picture-rather it mirrors the position of the viewer, whose gaze is similarly concentrated upon the intense variety of objects depicted and the meanings they evoke.
  • Sally Quin Curator (Collections)Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery The University of Western Australia

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